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NBA Playoff Preview: Heat vs Bucks

The defending NBA champion Miami Heat begin the “second season” of their title defense with what should be little more than a brisk walk-through.

Their first-round best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference playoff series is against the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, starting with Game 1 Sunday in Miami (7 pm ET, TNT).

In early Game 1 betting, Bovada were listing the Heat at -13.5 points over the Bucks. Also, 5Dimes was chalking Miami at a prohibitive -18500 to win this series, with Milwaukee getting +7000 to pull what would be a massive upset.

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The champs (66-16 SU, 46-36 ATS) rolled to the best record in the league this year, finishing 12 games better than second-seeded New York in the final Eastern Conference standings. [ Matchup report and live odds ]

Miami made a run at the longest winning streak in NBA history, winning 27 straight games between early February and late March, and ended the regular season on an eight-game run.

Milwaukee (38-44 SU, 37-45 ATS), meanwhile, should consider itself lucky just to have made the playoffs. Or unlucky, depending on how you look at things. The Bucks struggled just to stay around the .500 mark most of the season.

They would have entered the playoffs on at least a five-game losing streak had they not beat a disinterested Oklahoma City team Wednesday night that rested Kevin Durant.

Milwaukee finished six games under .500, the only team in the league to make the playoffs with a losing record. But because there are seven teams in the East that are actually worse than Milwaukee – which is almost hard to believe – the Bucks didn't even really have any competition for the eighth and final spot in the East.

Maybe nobody else wanted it.

Miami took the season series from Milwaukee three games to one. Most recently, the Heat beat the Bucks 94-83 two weeks ago in South Beach.

Also, three of the four games these teams played this season played UNDER on the totals, and the only game that played OVER did so only because it went into overtime, a 113-106 Miami victory back in November.

On the injury front for Milwaukee, both Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, who combined are averaging 23 points and 16 boards a game this season, have missed some recent action, so bettors might want to check their status before getting down on this series.  

As of earlier this week on the NBA futures market Bovada was offering a price of +2200 on Miami going undefeated through these playoffs.