Bucks vs Cavaliers Picks, Prediction Today | Friday, Dec. 29

Bucks vs Cavaliers Picks, Prediction Today | Friday, Dec. 29 article feature image
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Milwaukee Bucks’ Damian Lillard during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Bucks vs Cavaliers Prediction, Picks for Friday, Dec. 29

Here's everything you need to know about Bucks vs Cavaliers on Friday, Dec. 29 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.

The Bucks are absolutely cruising, coming off a dominant offensive showing in Brooklyn to deliver them an eighth win in nine games. Now, it's time to put that form to the test against one of the best defenses in the NBA.

Can Cleveland overcome a laundry list of injuries here to maintain a hot streak of its own? Let's get to our Bucks vs Cavaliers prediction and pick.


Bucks vs Cavaliers Prediction

Friday, Dec. 29
7:30 p.m.
NBA TV
Pick: Bucks -5.5


Milwaukee Bucks Betting Outlook

The Milwaukee Bucks have been downright impressive on the offensive end this season, ranking second in the league in efficiency and watching as their offensive output per 100 possessions has increased roughly four points per 100 possessions in the last 10 games. While they've left a bit to be desired on defense this season, sitting right around the middle of the league, they're just outside the top 10 in the league over those aforementioned 10 games.

Milwaukee's biggest weakness on defense has come inside the arc, where they've ranked 15th in rim defense, allowing 65.1% shots to fall, and have been bottom 10 against the mid-range shot. Outside of that, this team has actually ranked sixth in defending the three and it's also eighth in points added per possession allowed in transition according to Cleaning the Glass.

Offensively it's been something of a masterpiece anywhere you look for the Bucks, but they've opted to take most of their shots either from long range or right around the rim, which makes sense given their bevvy of shooting and the attacking ability of Giannis Antetokounmpo. They've been particularly potent at the rim, ranking second in field goal percentage within four feet.

Speaking of Antetokounmpo, he did pop up on the injury report prior to this one with "right calf injury management" but is currently listed as probable to play. The report on that injury is a bit of a head-scratcher given his status, but I suppose you should beware of a surprise scratch late on Friday. Of course, the Bucks have done this before during the course of the season only to run Antetokounmpo out for upwards of 38 minutes, so it's likely nothing to worry about.


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Cleveland Cavaliers Betting Outlook

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have much to worry about when it comes to this injury report. Evan Mobley had already been lost for an extended period after he had to undergo knee surgery, and Ricky Rubio was absent from the team before some more injuries popped up surrounding key guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland.

Garland will remain out for this one, but Mitchell seems to be nearing a return from an illness that's kept him out the past four contests. He's listed as questionable here, and given he's had nine days to recover. So I'd say there's a somewhat decent chance we see him finally make his return here.

With all that said, the Cavaliers have been excellent over the past six games — winning five of them and dropping just one at home to the Pelicans. They've relied heavily upon their defense all season long, ranking ninth in points allowed per 100 possessions, but it's been the offense that has driven this recent run. Cleveland did have the benefit of playing some incredibly poor defenses, however, so it's probably smart to pump the brakes here before we believe this offense has turned the corner.

Things could certainly improve on offense should Mitchell be activated prior to this one, and that would certainly make me second guess my outlook on the Cavs. They do rank seventh in points added per 100 possessions when defending in transition according to Cleaning the Glass, which should come in handy against the Bucks, but their defense at the rim ranks 20th in the league and their 3-point defense has been even worse at 25th in the NBA.


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Bucks vs Cavaliers Picks, Odds

Friday, Dec. 29
7:30 p.m.
NBA TV
Bucks Odds
SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
-5.5
-110
239.5
-110 / -110
-230
Cavaliers Odds
SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
+5.5
-110
239.5
-110 / -110
+190
Odds via DraftKings . Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Cavaliers are just 1-3 against the spread as home underdogs this season, and that record may get even worse here with just 5.5 points coming their way from oddsmakers in this matchup.

Transition is just about the only area of this game where the Cavaliers should be able to successfully stymie the Bucks' other-worldly offense; they have not successfully stopped an interior attack even halfway as powerful as Milwaukee's this season and their defense has only gotten worse since Mobley and Garland were lost to injury. Their 3-point defense is also a massive liability here, and we know the Bucks are one of the most dangerous teams from outside.

Milwaukee has actually seen nearly a two-point increase in its 3-point success rate away from home this season, which only makes me fear for the Cavaliers all the more here. I'm comfortable laying up to 6.5 with the Bucks in this spot, even if a likely-rusty Mitchell suits up for the Cavaliers. Their recent good fortunes on offense are bound to end when confronted with even a league-average defense.

Pick: Bucks -5.5 (-110)

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