At about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks were nine-point favorites to win Game 4, huge favorites to win the Eastern Conference finals over the Atlanta Hawks and also favored to win the NBA championship.
Two hours later, they were just hoping their 2021-22 season wasn't ruined.
The Bucks aren't dead, but Giannis Antetokounmpo's knee injury changes the entire outlook of the NBA playoffs (and if the final news is bad enough, next year's NBA playoffs too). The Hawks were already blowing out the Bucks in Game 4 when Antetokounmpo went down. For a sad-sack franchise like the Bucks, Tuesday night felt like a funeral.
Even as everyone awaits the specific news on Antetokounmpo's left knee, the NBA Finals odds changed. Maybe not enough.
Who is favored after Giannis' injury?
This has been a weird NBA postseason, and perhaps summed up by this: The team that is favored to win the NBA Finals by a significant margin isn't even favored to win Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Here were the NBA championship odds at BetMGM early Wednesday morning:
Phoenix Suns +115
Los Angeles Clippers +650
Then, at about 10 a.m. Eastern time, the odds shifted again with a little more pessimism on the Bucks:
The Bucks odds still feel like a hedge. Oddsmakers likely didn't want to put out too high of a number and then hear miraculous news on Antetokounmpo's availability for the rest of the playoffs. But it's hard to buy that a team with Khris Middleton as its No. 1 option is the second favorite to win it all, with the third favorite that far behind.
But oddsmakers haven't given up on the Bucks yet. They're 3-point favorites for Game 5 on Thursday. The Hawks might be without their star too, as Trae Young deals with a bone bruise. They did just fine without him in Game 4 though.
Suns have a great opportunity
There are no asterisks for championships. Injuries, and avoiding them, are part of any sport. But the Suns' path couldn't have been clearer this postseason.
They beat a Los Angeles Lakers team that had Anthony Davis banged up. The Suns then swept a Denver Nuggets team that lost Jamal Murray during the season. They're facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard, and if they win they'll take on an East champ that could be dealing with a significant injury too. For a Suns team that has never won a championship, this is an amazing opportunity to finally lift the trophy. Of course, they need to actually eliminate the Clippers.
The same could have been said about the Bucks before Tuesday night. Then they came out entirely unprepared to beat the Hawks and got blasted even before Antetokounmpo hurt his knee. There's no reason to believe at the moment that Antetokounmpo will be back for this series or even the next one if the Bucks are fortunate enough to advance. It's hard to talk yourself into the Bucks winning a championship without Antetokounmpo (which is why the Hawks at +800 is the best value among the final four). If the Bucks don't even make the NBA Finals, it will be crushing.
The NBA playoffs are changing seemingly every night with a new injury. The Antetokounmpo injury could end up being one of the biggest shifts.
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