Bucks vs. 76ers Odds, Spread, Line: Betting Picks & Predictions for Christmas Day
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left), Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (right).
- Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are on the road to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas (2:30 p.m. ET on ABC).
- We analyze the game and break down the betting angles of this Eastern Conference clash of titans.
Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions
- Spread: Bucks -3
- Over/Under: 220
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: ABC
Odds as of Tuesday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Is this an Eastern Conference Final preview? According to the odds, it is.
The Milwaukee Bucks come into Christmas as even-money favorites to win the East with the Sixers not too far behind at +260.
Most sportsbooks opened this line at Bucks -2 and the number has been bouncing between Milwaukee -2 and -4 ever since. It’s no wonder why the Bucks, who at 27-4 are currently on pace for the third-best record in NBA history, are the more popular side. According to our market-wide data, Milwaukee is getting 81% of the bets for this matchup.
Should you fade the public in Philly? Our analysts dive into this heavyweight showdown:
Betting Trends to Know
The Sixers are 4-3-1 Against the Spread (ATS) at home vs. teams with a win percentage over 60% but one of those includes the Wolves from back early in the season before they died inside.
Most gamblers prefer wagering on the over and cheering for points. Since Christmas Day games are some of the most heavily-bet in the regular season, it is fair to assume that oddsmakers would inflate the total anticipating increased action on the over from the public.
This creates value betting the under.
A $100 bettor following this strategy has returned a profit of $1,449 since 2005.
Matt Moore: Can Philadelphia Shut Down Giannis?
This is yet another game where the Sixers should have decided advantages but they need to cash in on them.
Here’s a fun fact, before we get into some deeper analysis: In their three meetings last season in which Milwaukee went 2-1, the Sixers made and attempted more 3-pointers than the Bucks. Do you know how hard that is vs. bomb-in-volume Milwaukee? But Philadelphia was outscored by 30 in the paint in the season series, despite the presence of Joel Embiid. That’s an issue, particularly since the Sixers went from 22nd in 3-point rate last season to 26th this season.
I’m not surprised the Bucks are the public side in this one. It’s hard not to take them in this spot. The Bucks have proven that, at least in the regular season, they’re better than just about everyone.
It’s also difficult to accurately project a line for this game, in Philadelphia. My gut instinct was to put this at Bucks -2, but if we put only two points for home-court advantage in either direction, that makes the Bucks -6 at home, which feels like too many points considering how good Philadelphia is. A pick ’em might put this into a more reasonable spot with the Bucks as 4-point favorites at home. Bear in mind that Milwaukee hasn’t been less than a 2-point favorite since their season opener in Houston when the Bucks smoked the Rockets as 1.5-point dogs.
Milwaukee is 4-2 as less than a 5-point favorite this season, with the two losses coming vs. Utah in Utah and against the Celtics.
Speaking of Boston, they put out the blueprint for how to get past the Bucks: shoot in volume. The Bucks’ defensive formula is to pack the paint and force you to hit jump shots, mostly off the dribble. The Sixers are 13th league-wide on jump-shot points per possession, but 26th in jumper points per game, and 28th on points per game from jumpshots off the dribble, per Synergy Sports. This is a problem.
The Al Horford addition helps the Sixers in this matchup… on paper. The idea is that with another big defender, they can counter Giannis Antetokounmpo better. Except, the best way to counter Giannis is to drop coverage to the rim. For this to work, you have to have exceptional length and athleticism, or Giannis just dunks over you. Horford struggled in Boston whenever Brad Stevens went to drop coverage the last few years. He needs to play to the level, but doing that vs. the Bucks is suicide with who they have on the wing and underneath.
Given the model of last year’s games and the changes in rosters to both teams, the under likely has some value here. The Sixers allow the fewest 3-point attempts per 100 possessions in the NBA this season, forcing off a huge amount of Milwaukee’s offense. They may give it up at the rim as they did last season, but then they’re giving up 2’s instead of 3’s.
This is a game between two top-flight defenses. If the Sixers’ defensive plan is actually successful, Milwaukee’s likely having a stagnant shooting night with no ability to create points off the dribble. If the Bucks’ defensive plan works, the Sixers are hoisting up contested short-range shots and mid-range jumpers from Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson.
One big hesitation on the under: the Bucks’ bench can put up big points, despite not having any signature stars on it, especially with Eric Bledsoe out and George Hill starting. The Sixers’ bench is much worse, but if the Bucks run away with the game, it’s likely going over. The under in Bucks road games is still 7-6-1 this season, though.
Leans: Under 222
Brandon Anderson: Are These Two Teams in the Same Weight Class?
This is the game I’m most looking forward to on Christmas: the reigning MVP up against a long, nasty, filthy defense ready to take everything away at the rim and force an opponent that can’t shoot to beat them from deep.
Oh wait, both of those are the Bucks. The 76ers defense hasn’t lived up to its historic billing yet. The Sixers are 6th in defensive rating entering Christmas. That’s certainly good, but it’s not great, and it’s far from historically great. Philly dominates on the boards and is pretty good at most things on defense.
But it’s Milwaukee that has the #1 defense, not Philadelphia. And as SB Nation’s Mike Prada so brilliantly wrote, the Bucks succeed not by doing a little bit of everything, but rather by being absolutely elite at one thing. Everything Milwaukee does on defense is built around protecting the rim, old school. The Lopez twins do most of the heavy lifting, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the free safety cleaning everything else up. The Bucks allow the lowest percentage of opponent shots at the rim and the lowest conversion rate on those attempts. Milwaukee actually gives up a ton of threes, by design. Go ahead and shoot. Just don’t try to beat us at the rim.
Sound like a problem for Philly? How are the Sixers going to score efficiently if they can’t score at the rim? Who’s going to hit threes? Will Ben Simmons make a Christmas three? O Christmas three, o Christmas three!? Don’t count on it.
These were supposed to be the East’s two elite teams, but only delusional Philly fans think that’s true right now. The East is led by a one-horse sleigh, and Giannis is Santa, bringing gifts to every night. The Sixers are just one of the many reindeer chasing them. Or something like that.
Pick: Bucks -2.5
The Top Bucks-76ers Prop Bet
THE PICK: Over 8.5 Points (+100)
Wes Matthews has been around the NBA a long time, but you know he’s relishing this late-career opportunity with the Bucks. Matthews has started all but one Milwaukee game as the de facto Malcolm Brogdon replacement in the lineup. He is the ultimate 3-and-D guy — those two things are really all he’s out there for.
Matthews is averaging 8.3 points per game. More importantly, he’s averaging 12.3 points per 36 minutes. Though he’s started every game he’s played, Matthews’ minutes have waxed and waned, and his points have moved with them. Matthews has played more than 25 minutes in exactly half his games, scoring 11.0 points per game in such contests. In the other half of his games, his scoring average plummets to 5.6 points per game.
The math here is easy: If Matthews is out there long enough, he’s going to hit some shots. Lo and behold, he’s hit the magic 25-minute mark in five of his past seven games, and the minutes should be there with Eric Bledsoe out. Our models have him at 9.8 points, and that makes this prop very playable at even odds or as high as -120.
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.