Bucks vs. Cavaliers Odds, Pick, Prediction: 3 Bets for Central Division Clash (December 21)

Bucks vs. Cavaliers Odds, Pick, Prediction: 3 Bets for Central Division Clash (December 21) article feature image

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers meet in a Central Division clash on Wednesday night.
  • The Bucks own the best record in the East, but the Cavs are only two spots behind them in the standings.
  • Check out Jim Turvey's full betting preview and pick for Bucks vs. Cavaliers below.

Bucks vs. Cavaliers Odds

Bucks Odds+1.5
Cavaliers Odds-1.5
Time7 p.m. ET
TVNBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

We’re still a few days away from the NBA's big Christmas Day slate, but Wednesday’s offerings aren’t too bad.

The highlight of the bunch is arguably a divisional matchup between the established Milwaukee Bucks (22-8) and the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers (21-11), who have intentions of preventing Giannis and Company from cake-walking to a fifth straight Central Division crown.

The two teams have met twice already this season, and the Bucks have played the role of older brother in each game, winning both by 15 points and batting away any ideas of a coup.

Those two games are the difference in the division right now, so can the Cavs nab their first win over Milwaukee this season and get to within one game as we head toward the end of the calendar year?

Let’s break it down.

Milwaukee Bucks

It’s early in the season still, of course, but the 2022-23 Bucks are looking a lot more like the 2018-19 and 2019-20 iterations than the 2020-21 and 2021-22 versions — and that’s good news for Milwaukee.

The Bucks ranked first in the Association in defensive efficiency in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. They slipped to sixth in 2020-21 and then down to 12th last season.

Credit Mike Budenholzer and his staff, along with the Bucks players, who saw that changes needed to be made. The result is once again the Bucks finding themselves near the top of the league in defensive efficiency (second to Wednesday night’s opponent in Cleveland through Monday’s games).

As such, maybe it shouldn’t be shocking that their winning percentage also looks more like 2018-19 and 2019-20 when the first number started with a "7" than the past two seasons when that dropped to a "6."

The way they're back on top is a little different though. After giving up the most 3s per game in a “pack the paint to the extreme” game plan in 2018-19 and 2019-20, they now rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of number of 3s given up per game.

This change of scheme — and success alongside it — shows just how high the ceiling and talent level is on this roster.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

Four hundred or so miles south and east of Milwaukee, the Cavs are building a defensive dynasty of their own that actually sits above Milwaukee in terms of efficiency this season.

This is no early-season fluke either, as this was a top defensive unit last season. It’s mostly thanks to two players — Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley —and a coach in J.B. Bickerstaff whose role in this defensive success usually gets a little understated.

If that’s the case, it’s because Allen and Mobley are such shining stars on the defensive end.

The two bigs play off each other perfectly, with Allen locking down the paint as a classic rim protector and Mobley acting as the do-anything big wing who can switch onto anyone and anything.

When game-planning for the Bucks, the key man is obviously Giannis. In the two matchups so far this season, that’s been a split. In the first game, the Cavs held him to just 16 points (tied for a season-low) on 18 shots. However, in the second matchup, he exploded for 38 on just 20 shots.

In the first game, the Cavs did a better job getting Mobley onto Giannis, as the young big has held Giannis to just 1-of-9 shooting when guarding him, per NBA.com’s matchup data.

The Bucks sprung Giannis loose a bit more in the second matchup, but even in the first matchup, they picked up the win thanks to seven 3s from Brook Lopez (hold that thought) and solid defense across the board.

Bucks-Cavaliers Pick

As you can probably tell, defense is likely to rule the day between these two.

The first game ended with 211 points, and the second game came to 219. The total opened closer to where the second game ended (218) but is already headed downward. You can still get 217 as of writing, and I’d take it down to 215.5.

As far as player props, I’m tempted with a Giannis points under, but I’m also terrified of a close game, which bumps Giannis’ minutes and could help him clear the number for that reason.

I will, however, take the under on Evan Mobley’s rebounds if they post at 9.5 (-110) or better. Mobley is averaging exactly 9.5 since Allen returned, and this will be a slow-paced game against a team that cleans the glass as well as any team around.

I also like a zag over in the form of Brook Lopez 3s. I mentioned that he went off for seven 3s in their first matchup, and that was without Allen. He also hit two (admittedly on just two attempts) in the second matchup, though, and you should be able to get plus money on over 1.5.

The Cavs give up the second-most 3s per game to opposing centers, and it makes sense given the yeomen's work Allen puts in protecting the paint

Pick: Evan Mobley Under 9.5 Rebounds (Play to -110)

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