Injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden have flipped the odds on the Brooklyn Nets-Milwaukee Bucks Eastern Conference playoff series, putting sportsbooks in a unique position where the current favorite to win the NBA title is now an underdog in the conference semifinal round.
The Bucks tied the series 2-2 with a 107-96 victory Sunday over the Nets in Game 4. Irving left the game and did not return after suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter, and Harden has not played since injuring his hamstring early in Game 1.
With the uncertain status of the two Nets stars -- both have been ruled out for Game 5 -- sportsbooks have made Milwaukee the favorite to win the series. The Bucks are as high as -170 favorites in the series, with Brooklyn sitting around +145 underdogs.
But the Nets remain the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and NBA championship. At Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, Brooklyn is +165 to win the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Bucks at +170, and +280 to win the NBA title, ahead of the Utah Jazz at +325.
"The philosophy is if they can overcome the injuries in the short term against the Bucks, they will be well-placed long term to win the conference and championship," Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, told ESPN. "However, if they both are ruled out long term, those futures markets will change. It's very fluid right now."
At Caesars/William Hill, the Nets were commanding -440 favorites over the Bucks after winning the first two games of the series. A week later, they're injury-riddled underdogs.
The team on Monday ruled out both Irving and Harden for Tuesday's pivotal Game 5. Coach Steve Nash said he's unsure if Irving (ankle sprain) will be able to return to the series, and while Harden continues to work out, Nash said the team will not rush him back until his hamstring is fully healed.
The Bucks were installed as 3-point favorites in Game 5, but that number grew to as big as 4.5 at some sportsbooks after the star tandem was ruled out of Game 5.
Jeff Sherman, who oversees NBA odds for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, had said he expected the Game 5 line to move closer to pick 'em if Harden were to be cleared to play.
"We're expecting to see Milwaukee money, especially if those guys get announced out," Sherman said.