If you envisioned a Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks matchup in the Finals when the NBA season began, take a bow.
The Bucks have been playoff mainstays in recent years, but hadn’t advanced past the Eastern Conference finals until this year. The Suns, on the other hand, hadn’t even been in the postseason since 2010. But with the addition of veteran point guard Chris Paul playing alongside young talent like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the Suns played at a high level throughout the regular season.
That strong play carried over into the postseason, and now the Suns are on the precipice of their first NBA title in franchise history. This is the third NBA Finals appearance for both franchises, but the Bucks have one title under their belt from way back in 1971. Needless to say, it will have been a long time coming for whichever team comes out on top.
With Game 1 on tap for Tuesday night, the Suns are currently favored to win the series over at BetMGM. The Suns are listed at -190 with the Bucks at +160. The uncertain status of Milwaukee’s best player, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly plays a role in that equation.
Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. The injury kept Antetokounmpo out of the lineup for Games 5 and 6 of the series, but the Bucks prevailed anyway, winning the series in six games.
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported last week that there was some optimism that Antetokounmpo would have been given the green light to play in a must-win Game 7 scenario against the Hawks. But that situation never arose, and now Antetokounmpo’s status remains a lingering question mark as the Finals get underway. As of late Monday, the Bucks listed him as doubtful for Game 1.
The series will begin in Phoenix, and the Suns are six-point home favorites for Game 1 with the total currently set at 218.5.
The Suns are 7-3 against the spread as a favorite during the postseason. As a home favorite, they are 5-2 ATS. The Bucks have been an underdog just four times during the postseason. They are 3-1 ATS during those games, winning all three outright. That includes Game 6 on the road against the Hawks. The Bucks were 3.5-point underdogs but won by 11 to clinch the East.
Overall, the Suns are 11-5 ATS during the postseason. The Bucks are 10-7.
From an over/under perspective, both teams have gone to the under more often during the playoffs. On the Suns side, the under is 9-7 during postseason play. In the Bucks’ 17 playoff games, the under is 10-6-1.
The Bucks and Suns squared off twice during the regular season. The Suns prevailed in both games by just a single point. There was a 125-124 decision in Phoenix back in February. In the April rematch, the visiting Suns won 128-127. The Suns covered the spread in both games.
Chris Paul leads NBA Finals MVP odds
Playing in his 16th NBA season, the 36-year-old Paul will play in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. Paul turned in a heroic 41-point effort in the Suns’ Game 6 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to help his team reach the Finals for the first time since 1993.
On the heels of that effort, Paul is the current betting favorite to win Finals MVP at BetMGM. Paul is listed at +150 with Booker next in line at +250.
If it turns out that Antetokounmpo is ready to play in Game 1, you can get him at a pretty good price at +450. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee’s other All-Star, is +500 with Jrue Holiday next at +1100.
Full NBA Finals MVP odds at BetMGM:
Chris Paul: +150
Devin Booker: +250
Giannis Antetokounmpo: +450
Khris Middleton: +500
Jrue Holiday: +1100
Deandre Ayton: +2000
Brook Lopez: +6600
Cameron Payne: +10000
P.J. Tucker: +10000
Mikal Bridges: +15000
Cam Johnson: +15000
Jae Crowder: +15000
Dario Saric: +15000
Jevon Carter: +15000
Torrey Craig: +15000
Bobby Portis: +20000
Jeff Teague: +20000
Bryn Forbes: +20000
Pat Connaughton: +20000
Euro 2020 rolls on
The first of two Euro 2020 semifinal matchups is on tap Tuesday afternoon with Italy squaring off against Spain.
Italy is the favorite, but only at +140 on the 90-minute moneyline at BetMGM. Spain is +210 and a draw (in regulation) is +220. The over/under is 2.5.
Yahoo Sports’ Nick Bromberg has a preview and picks for both semifinal matches.
Canadiens keep Stanley Cup alive
The Montreal Canadiens avoided the sweep and kept their season alive by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The game went into overtime and Josh Anderson scored 3:57 into the extra session to send the series back to Tampa for Game 5.
The Canadiens were +135 on the moneyline ahead of Monday night's game. Entering the game, BetMGM said 63% of the tickets and 76% of the money it had received were on the Tampa side.
After opening the series at -275, the Lightning are now -2500 favorites to win the Cup. Montreal is +1200.
Don't forget about The Match IV
Before the NBA Finals begin, there's another marquee sporting event. It's The Match IV, this time featuring Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson vs. Bryson DeChambeau and Aaron Rodgers.
The two high-profile pairs will square off for 18 holes in Montana late Tuesday afternoon in a modified alternate-shot format.
DeChambeau and Rodgers are the favorites at -175 with Mickelson and Brady as the underdogs at +140 at BetMGM. Most of the betting action is on the underdogs. Per BetMGM, 89.1% of the tickets and 85.2% of the money are on Brady and Mickelson.
Full MLB slate
Though there are no games in the afternoon, there’s a full MLB slate on Tuesday night. The marquee game is the second game in a three-game series between the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets.
The Brewers have been on fire lately, but it was the Mets who pulled out a 4-2 victory on Monday night, thanks to a two-run double from Pete Alonso in the seventh inning.
With Jacob deGrom on the mound, the Mets are huge favorites — -250 at BetMGM — in Tuesday night's meeting. The Brewers, +200 underdogs, will counter with Brett Anderson.
Best bets for Tuesday
I've got two plays I'm rolling with.
First, I'm taking the Bucks +6 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. With Antetokounmpo likely out, you're getting good value with a team that quickly figured out how to play without him in Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. I don't see Chris Paul going off for 40-plus points again, and there were times the Suns looked a bit shaky offensively late in that Clippers series. Even with the Bucks on the road, I'm happy to take those points.
My other bet is the over 9.5 runs at +100 in the Philadelphia Phillies vs. Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley. The Cubs are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and are starting Jake Arrieta, who has allowed at least six runs in four of his last six starts. On the other side is Aaron Nola, who has been uncharacteristically inconsistent for the Phillies this season. Nola's uneven performances, plus Philly's terrible bullpen and Arrieta pitching for the Cubs on a summer night at Wrigley makes the perfect recipe for an over bet.
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