2021-22 NBA Playoffs: Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls, Game 3
Back the short-handed Bucks to cover the slight spread: Milwaukee -2.5
For the two games of the first round of the 2021-22 NBA playoffs played at Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Bucks closed as 10 and 10.5 point favorites over the Chicago Bulls. But the outcome of game 3 will be decided at the Bulls' United Center.
We estimate home court for Chicago is worth a single point, based on Jimmy Boyd's True Home Field Edge methodology: in 48 postseason games played on the road since the 2004-05 season, the Bulls' average result was a loss by 2.52 points. Conversely, Chicago's mean outcome was a loss by 0.47 points in 45 home playoff games over the same span. The difference between these figures, divided by two, is approximately one point.
The more marked influence on the game 3 spread versus games 1 and 2 though is the unavailability of Khris Middleton (Milwaukee's starting small forward suffered an MCL sprain in game 2). NBC Sports Edge suggests Grayson Allen is likely to start in Middleton's place, with Pat Connaughton likewise receiving consideration. If we assume a healthy Middleton would have played 39 minutes, as was the case in game 1, and that the aforementioned reserves will each inherit half of the vacant minutes, ESPN's Real Plus-Minus statistic, adjusted for an expected 199 total possessions (which matches the pace established in each of the first two contests of this series), implies Middleton's absence is worth about 5.5 spread points.
Thus, an objective quantitative approach to handicapping the combination of the impact of the shift of venue and Middleton's injury suggests Bucks -3.5 or -4 is an appropriate line.
The implication is that Milwaukee -2.5 offers some value.
Inline with this conclusion, we have observed that in first round game 3's, point takers that sat out of the proceedings of the prior postseason have proven great fades.
Adherence to this simple history-based rule has delivered a statistically significant 32% return on investment since 2004-05, including a perfect 2-0 ATS run so far this season.
Also consistent with this perspective, we note that 62% of ATS dollars tracked by SportsInsights are down on Milwaukee. Count us among the Bucks backers for Friday's action.