The Daily Sweat: Facing elimination, how will the Suns respond?

·5-min read

Entering a pivotal Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in an unfamiliar position — with their backs against the wall.

The Suns, who trail the Milwaukee Bucks 3-2 with the series back in Milwaukee, face elimination for the first time all postseason. In fact, it’s just the second time the Suns have trailed in a series during the playoffs.

The first time was in the first round when the Los Angeles Lakers took a 2-1 lead. But Lakers star Anthony Davis was injured in Game 4 and the Suns rallied to win the next three games and take the series in six. Next was a four-game sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the West semifinals and then a six-game series over the Los Angeles Clippers in the conference finals.

The Suns started the Finals off strong, winning Games 1 and 2 at home by double digits. The "Suns in four" chants look like they might come to fruition, but the Bucks responded with a convincing victory of their own in Game 3. Milwaukee then won thrilling nail-biters in Games 4 and 5 to take a 3-2 edge in the series. 

The Suns had a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 4 and trailed by just a point in the final seconds of Game 5, but they couldn’t come out on top in either game.

For the Suns, Devin Booker has posted back-to-back 40-point outings in the two losses, but Chris Paul has had some struggles after playing spectacularly early in the series. Playing in his first NBA Finals at age 36, how will Paul respond with a championship ring potentially slipping through his grasp?

The Bucks are a mere 48 minutes from their first title since 1971 and find themselves as 5-point favorites at BetMGM for Tuesday night’s showdown. The home favorite had won the first four games of the series, but that changed when the Bucks shocked the Suns on their home floor in Game 5. The Suns will have to return the favor in order to send the series to a decisive Game 7.

The Bucks are 11-4 straight up and 9-6 against the spread as a favorite during the postseason. As a home favorite, they are 8-1 straight up and 6-3 ATS. They have covered four straight times as home favorites.

The Suns, meanwhile, are 4-4 straight up and 4-4 ATS as an underdog during the postseason. As a road underdog, they are 4-3 straight up and 4-3 ATS.

For the series, the Bucks are listed as -400 favorites at BetMGM with the Suns at +310. It’s a massive swing from where these teams were less than a week ago. Entering Game 4, the Suns were -275 and the Bucks were +225.

The over-under for Game 6 is currently 222.5. The under is 5-2-1 in Phoenix’s eight games as an underdog this postseason. The under is 9-4-2 in Milwaukee’s 15 games as a favorite this postseason.

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) talks with head coach Monty Williams, left, during the first half of Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) talks with head coach Monty Williams, left, during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

What's there to bet on Tuesday?

Aside from the NBA, it's a lot of baseball. Get used to it, because the daily grind of baseball is going to carry us into football season — which is only about six weeks away, by the way. 

There are a few afternoon MLB games on tap, as well as the start of a potentially fun interleague series between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees have a better record than the Phillies by a game — 48-44 for the Yanks, 47-45 for the Phils — but the two teams are in much different positions in their respective divisions. 

The Yankees are in fourth place and 7.5 games out of first place in the American League East. In the National League East, the Phillies are just 2.5 games behind the New York Mets for first place. 

The Phillies, who are 10-4 in the month of July, are road favorites in the Bronx on Tuesday night with Aaron Nola on the mound against Domingo German. The Phillies are -130 at BetMGM; the Yankees are +105. It's just the third time all season the Yankees are underdogs at Yankee Stadium. 

In NL West action, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers continue their series after the Giants won 7-2 in LA on Monday night. The Giants have the best record in baseball at 59-34, and currently hold a two-game lead in the division over the Dodgers. On Tuesday night, the Dodgers are the favorites at -145. The Giants are +120. 

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola in action during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Aaron Nola is on the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Best bets for Tuesday

I've been digging for a reason not to pick the Bucks, but I can't find one. Games 4 and 5 were brutal losses for the Suns and winning Game 6 back in Milwaukee is just too tough of an ask. I think the Bucks close out the series and cover the 5-point spread. I'm also leaning toward under 222.5.

In baseball, I like the over nine runs at -115 in the Phillies vs. Yankees game. Over the last two weeks, the Phillies have been averaging nearly seven runs per game and Yankees starter Domingo German hasn't gone deeper than 4.1 innings in any of his last four starts. On the other side, Aaron Nola is quietly having a subpar season. His 4.53 earned-run average is his worst since 2016. He has allowed four runs or more in seven starts this year. 

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