Bucks vs. Nets Odds, Pick, Prediction: Back Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s Defense (December 23)

Bucks vs. Nets Odds, Pick, Prediction: Back Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s Defense (December 23) article feature image

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

  • Kevin Durant and the Nets are short home favorites against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Friday night.
  • The Nets have been playing their best basketball recently, but will their offense stay hot against an elite Bucks defense?
  • Kenny Ducey breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Bucks vs. Nets Odds

Bucks Odds+3
Nets Odds-3
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Brooklyn Nets have now won 11 of their last 12 games and will put their winning run to the ultimate test when they take on one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals in the Milwaukee Bucks.

This game could easily deserve a Christmas Day spotlight, and hopefully it delivers on the Friday night of a holiday weekend. You'll surely be watching, so what is the smartest way to play this? Find a pick and prediction for Bucks vs. Nets below.

Can the Bucks Defense Make a Statement in Brooklyn?

First, let's talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo. We last saw him two nights ago when he went for 45 points in 40 minutes as the Bucks ultimately fell to the Cavaliers for the first time all season. He popped up on the injury report ahead of this game with left knee soreness, but considering he's listed as probable, it seems safe to assume that he'll be in the lineup. The only other name on the report is Khris Middleton, who is once again doubtful to play with a knee issue.

December hasn't been the best month for the Bucks. They've gone 7-4 straight up and 5-6 against the spread with some ugly losses to the Lakers and Rockets. Things have actually improved very marginally on offense, but on defense the Bucks are rocking a 111.0 efficiency rating. That puts them just inside the top 10 on defense for the month, which is a disappointment for a team ranked third for the entire season with a 108.1 Defensive Rating.

One aspect which has not changed for Milwaukee is its ability to guard inside the 3-point line. More specifically, this team has been quite good against midrange jump shots, allowing 37.6% shooting on those looks in the month of December. That is an improvement on the Bucks' already-strong 39.8% field goal percentage in defense of the midrange jumper.

The Bucks have remained excellent at defending the restricted area and the paint with Defensive Player of the Year favorite Brook Lopez leading their drop-scheme defense.

However, defending the 3-point line has been the biggest reason their defensive numbers have dipped a bit. It's easy to forgive them considering their defended field goal percentage is 2.3 points lower than their actual 3-point defense this month. That means there are some open 3s falling, and that variance should swing back eventually.

Nets' Shooters on Fire

Why are we talking about shooting numbers? Well, the Nets are once again at the top of the league in knocking down midrange jumpers. This should come as no surprise considering Kevin Durant is taking the bulk of the shots from the midrange and shooting an absurd 59% from this area.

Brooklyn is taking 14.8 shots per game from midrange this year, which ranks third in the NBA, and 17.3 this month. The Nets are first in the NBA by a mile with a 51.8% hit rate from midrange this season and have watched as a ridiculous 54.5% have fallen in December. The next-best team, Miami, is at 46.2%. Shooting is by far what the Nets do best on offense, and that's backed by the fact that they're also third in 3-point percentage.

The Nets have had the league's best offense in December, which is not surprising considering they're 8-1. What's notable about them, though, is that they've seemed to just get even better at things they were already exceptional at.

From an injury perspective, Yuta Watanabe is questionable for this game, and his absence could limit the Nets' shooting just a hair. His 55% accuracy on 3s this season, including 71% on corner 3s, leads the NBA. Day'Ron Sharpe and David Duke are available, however.

Bucks-Nets Pick

The Bucks may be in a bit of a rut, but their defense remains strong. As one of the premiere teams in the NBA at contesting jumpers, they should be well-positioned here to make life slightly more difficult for Brooklyn, and without Watanabe, we could certainly see a little dip in production.

I'm not convinced the Bucks will win this game, but I do think getting more than a point here is a pretty great deal considering I'd make this game a coin flip. The Bucks beat the Nets earlier in the season and know this team incredibly well. At worst, they lose this game in the final possession.

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