The upstart Atlanta Hawks drew first blood in the Eastern Conference finals, not only covering as 8-point underdogs put stealing a road win from the Milwaukee Bucks in the series opener.
Bookies are unmoved by this upset, installing Milwaukee as 7.5-point NBA betting chalk at home in Game 2 on Friday. There’s merit to that spread, with Atlanta needing an incredible 48-point effort from Trae Young to overcome a less-than-stellar team performance in Game 1.
Here are our free NBA picks and predictions for Hawks vs. Bucks on June 25.
Hawks vs Bucks game info
• Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
• Date: Friday, June 25, 2021
• Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
• TV: TNT
Hawks vs Bucks odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
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NBA sharp money and line movement reportBy Patrick Everson
Milwaukee, aiming to bounce back from its Game 1 loss, opened as a 7.5-point favorite late Wednesday night at PointsBet USA, went to -8 this morning and -8.5 this afternoon, but the Bucks aren't taking the bulk of the action. Rather, as of 5:30 p.m. ET, the Hawks are attracting 79 percent of bets and 77 percent of dollars on the spread. The total is down to 225 from a 226.5 opener, with 68 percent of bets/73 percent of cash on the Under.Check out the full line movement for this game
Hawks vs Bucks series odds
Hawks vs Bucks betting preview
Hawks: De’Andre Hunter F (Out).
Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo G (Out).
Find our latest NBA injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Hawks are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as road underdogs. Find more NBA betting trends for Hawks vs. Bucks.
Against the spread (ATS) pick
Truth be told, neither side looked fantastic in Game 1 of the Eastern finals. The Hawks and Bucks combined for only 16 total triples on 69 attempts from long range, but the interior defense had more holes than my “lucky underwear” — especially from the Bucks.
Atlanta hit nearly 62 percent of its two-point shots and scored 54 points in the paint and 17 off second chances, getting easy lobs inside and outworking Milwaukee on the glass down the stretch. The Hawks' deep roster and energy proved to be the difference as the minutes stacked up for a Bucks team that has been very top-heavy for its rotation.
Atlanta posted an offensive rating of 126.5 in the final 24 minutes of Game 1 while the Bucks bottomed out 108.0. Between heavy legs from shooters like Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton (who combined to go 0 for 13 from deep) and dragging feet on the defensive end, Milwaukee seemed to run out of steam with every crazy runner Young knocked down.
The dangerous thing about the Hawks is that they’re not dependent on Young to always carry the team. We’ve seen this talent-rich roster win in various ways, as evidenced by Game 7’s result versus Philadelphia in the conference semifinals. Young only scored 21 points but Atlanta got 13 points or more from four other sources.
Milwaukee was much more physical with Young in the second half of Game 1, and I expect Jrue Holiday to try and muscle him out of the paint in Friday’s Game 2. The Bucks were tight on the Hawks’ perimeter threats, but that gave Clint Capela and John Collins extra room inside, shooting a combined 16 for 20 on 2-point attempts.
This is one of the toughest teams to figure out because Atlanta can play various styles and win in different ways. Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer is in over his head against Nate McMillan and his adjustments in Game 2 will be countered. The Bucks may battle hard for the Game 2 victory, but this 7.5-point spread is disrespectful to a Hawks team that is 32-18-1 ATS since McMillan took over in March.
PREDICTION: Atlanta +7.5 (-110)
Outside of craptacular 3-point shooting, the Hawks and Bucks pretty much scored at will in Game 1. Just 48 total points were generated off 3-point makes, and the final score still topped the 225-point total.
The Bucks are better than this, at least on offense, and will hit more than eight triples in Game 2. Milwaukee made 40.2 percent of its 3-point shots at home in the regular season — the second-highest mark in the NBA — but is firing at a pop-gun percentage of 27.7 in the playoffs.
The Hawks will find added breathing room on the wings in Game 2 with the Bucks defense focused on packing the paint and shutting down Young’s ability to create buckets when he gets a step. Kevin Huerter at 6-foot-7 and Danilo Gallinari at 6-foot-10 are matchup problems, either stretching out the Bucks' bigger lineups or overwhelming Milwaukee when it goes small.
The squeaky wheel in this Hawks offense is Bogdan Bogdanovic’s problematic knee. He was Atlanta’s X-factor in many contests this season, averaging more than 16 points per game, but is notably hobbled and lacks the explosiveness to command any respect from defenders.
Our Covers NBA trends page for Game 2 is loaded with Under trends and patterns, but if the interior defense stays this soft and the 3-point shooting improves just a touch, this total doesn’t stand a chance.
PREDICTION: Over 226 (-110)
Player prop pick
Another 40-point effort from Young isn’t likely, with the Bucks doing everything in their power to pester the 6-foot-1 point guard. That means it’s time for the Hawks' other stars to shine, including Gallinari.
Gallinari scored only nine points on 4-of-9 shooting in Game 1 but was huge in the conference semis, sinking the 76ers for almost 15 points per game. His versatility and size are matchup nightmares, as he towers over small forwards and stretches the bigger guys with his outside touch.
Milwaukee is a team that plugs up the paint and after getting blown up inside in Game 1, you can expect that interior belt to tighten for Friday’s game. Gallinari will find plenty of room to operate and crack his Over/Under point total prop.
PREDICTION: Danilo Gallinari Over 13.5 Points (-106)
Hawks vs Bucks betting card
- Atlanta +7.5 (-110)
- Over 226 (-110)
- Danilo Gallinari Over 13.5 Points (-106)
Picks made on 6/24/2021 at 9:50 a.m. ET
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