Bucks vs. Lakers Odds, Preview, Prediction: Back the Bucks as Road Favorites (February 8)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bucks vs. Lakers Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
The Los Angeles Lakers host the Bucks Tuesday night on TNT in a matchup between the defending NBA champs and the preseason Western Conference favorites. This sets up as an exciting matchup featuring All-Star caliber players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, LeBron James and Anthony Davis matched up against each other often.
This sets up for a track meet as the total sits at 233, making this just one of two of the 10 games Tuesday with a total over 228. The Lakers have been one of the best total teams to the over this season, but is there more value on the spread in this game?
Can the Bucks Up Their Physicality?
The Bucks are riding a three-game winning streak as they have taken each of the first two games on their West Coast road trip against the Trail Blazers and Clippers (while also covering in both of those games).
The Bucks don’t have a ton of depth, especially in the frontcourt right now, so it is imperative that their stars play well. Antetokounmpo likely will have to battle against Davis for much of the night on offense, and Davis is one of the only players in the league who has a size, strength and speed combination to challenge Antetokounmpo. Middleton will also be challenged against a more physical James on the defensive end.
Holiday will play a key role in pressuring the Lakers’ ball-handlers when James isn’t at the point. If the Lakers let Russell Westbrook run the offense (which they have been doing less frequently recently) against Holiday, it could create opportunities for the Bucks to get out in transition after turnovers or bad misses.
Bobby Portis will also play a key role as Milwaukee doesn’t have any other bigs (besides Antetokounmpo) it can rely on for long stretches of time against the likes of Davis.
Lakers Shooters Will Be Key
If the Lakers cover or win outright, it will be because James and Davis do enough defensively to limit Middleton and Antetokounmpo while shooters step up around them offensively with Carmelo Anthony already ruled out.
James remains day-to-day with knee soreness, but is expected to suit up, and Dwight Howard is questionable with back tightness, so the lakers will be thin up front. Davis in particular will need to have a strong performance for the Lakers as the Bucks have struggled against size this season. He is bigger and stronger than Portis, and he will need to be aggressive by finishing with his momentum going toward the bucket instead of settling for jumpers.
However, the Bucks’ defense is designed to limit shots near the basket and force teams to pull up from beyond the arc — they have allowed opponents to take the most 3s in the league (42.8% of opponent shots).
Alongside James, shooters like Malik Monk and Avery Bradley, who are shooting over 39% on 3s, will need to stay ready after the Lakers drive and kick out to them for open looks. Others like Trevor Ariza and Austin Reaves, who are shooting below 33% on 3s, will need to regress to the mean.
Shooters will take on an even more important role if James is limited at all by his knee. James missed the previous five games with this injury before returning on Saturday and leading the Lakers with 29 points in 40 minutes in an overtime win over the Knicks.
The Lakers have struggled this season relative to expectations especially against the best teams in the NBA (9-17 straight up against teams .500 and above). Since they beat the Mavericks on Dec. 15, the Lakers have just one win over a team currently in the top six of either conference’s standings — a win over the floundering Jazz who have lost 11 of their last 16 games.
The Lakers should have a big advantage with Davis inside, but I don’t trust the rest of the offense beyond him and James. The Lakers will miss Anthony’s shooting as the Bucks do their best to swarm Davis inside and make the Lakers beat them from the perimeter.
The Lakers rank outside of the top half of the NBA in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency, and I love the value of taking the Bucks as short 3.5-point favorites in a game that should be up-tempo, give Antetokounmpo opportunities to dominate in transition, and offer plenty of chances for them to extend their lead late.
The Bucks rank among the top seven in the league in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency, and their offense has been on fire lately with a 121.1 rating over their last six games.
Take Milwaukee to win and cover as 3.5-point favorites with value down to -4.5.
Pick: Bucks -3.5