Bucks vs. Nuggets Betting Odds Picks & Predictions: Will Shorthanded Milwaukee Compete Without Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Bucks vs. Nuggets Betting Odds Picks & Predictions: Will Shorthanded Milwaukee Compete Without Giannis Antetokounmpo? article feature image
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Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Wesley Matthews #9, Khris Middleton #22, and Brook Lopez #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

  • The Bucks and the Nuggets (-5.5) square off in a major East vs. West showdown on Monday (9 p.m. ET on NBA TV).
  • The Bucks are dealing with key injuries to their starting lineup, but will that impact how our experts are betting this matchup?
  • See our full betting breakdown including picks below.

The Milwaukee Bucks will be without their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, in a road matchup against the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. They will also be down George Hill and likely Eric Bledsoe.

The Bucks are still the league’s best, but can they match up with the Nuggets on the road with their undermanned squad. Our crew breaks down the matchups, trends and picks below.

Bucks at Nuggets Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions

  • Spread: Nuggets -5.5
  • Over/Under: 222.5
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: NBA TV

Odds as of Monday and via FanDuel. Get up to a $500 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Betting Trend to Know

Even without Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks are the most complete and balanced team in the NBA and still have the best record in the league. The Denver Nuggets are 6-7-1 against the spread when facing teams with a win percentage .600 or above.

Matt Moore: Injured Bucks Still Dangerous

The Nuggets get up for big games and let down at any chance. That’s who they’ve been all year. They lost to the Cavaliers and Warriors (without Curry, Green, and Thompson, at home) inside of a week. It was last week!

Now, the Bucks are in their worst stretch and it’s been going on for a while. They beat the Raptors for their last big win, and then lost to Charlotte and Miami, got past Indiana, lost to the Lakers and then lost Sunday night vs. the Suns in a blowout without Giannis.

These two teams are in their worst stretches of the season. Milwaukee is still 7-2 ATS on the second night of a back-to-back this season. They are still 5-2 ATS this season without Giannis. They are still a really good team.

So what we’re really doing here is we’re betting either on the fully-healthy Nuggets to snap out of their funk in an advantageous spot, or the Bucks to do what they’ve done all year and snap out of their funk.

I trust the Bucks more.

PICK: Bucks +5.5

Bryan Mears: Take Advantage of Recency Bias

Antetokounmpo is out yet again with a knee injury. The Bucks are on a road back-to-back in Denver at altitude. They’ve lost three of their past four, including last night to the Phoenix Suns in which they let up 140 points. The sky is falling!

You know what this really means? We can buy low on the Milwaukee Bucks, who have proven to be the best regular season team in the league this year. Recency bias is a beautiful thing!

Speaking of variance, let’s take a look at the Bucks’ 3-point shooting over their past five games, which is really when they started struggling:

  • 3/1 at Hornets: 22.6% 3P%
  • 3/2 at Heat: 20.6% 3P%
  • 3/4 vs. Pacers: 33.3% 3P%
  • 3/6 at Lakers: 27.9% 3P%
  • 3/8 at Suns: 39.4% 3P%

This is what I mean about variance and why it’s so hard to measure. We want to take a random thing — 3-point shooting — and then ascribe meaning to it. “The Bucks aren’t motivated because they’re coasting to the playoffs.” “They can’t perform without Giannis.”

Those things could be true, but it could also be that they got unlucky shooting the ball and now we’re trying to give it a meaning beyond what it also could be: random bad luck.

In that five-game sample, the Bucks on wide-open shots are posting a miserable 44.4% eFG% — one of the worst marks in the league. On wide-open 3-pointers, they’re bottom-five at 29.4%. Looking at open shots, they’re still generating them at a top-10 rate; they just aren’t hitting them. The looks are there; the offense hasn’t changed that much — they just have gotten somewhat unlucky on them going down.

That’s not to understate Giannis’ impact: He’s the leading candidate in the betting market to win MVP for a reason. But this team has still been quite excellent even with him off the floor this year, and it’s possible that we’re now overstating his absence because of recent losses against really good teams on the road and on back-to-backs.

I get it: The Bucks are on the road on a tough back-to-back at altitude in Denver, and that’s probably contributing to this line inflating to -5.5 after opening at Denver -3.5. But what is this line two weeks ago with Giannis playing? Bucks -1 or -2? So you’re telling me the recent play and Giannis’ absence is worth potentially 7.5 points to the spread?

Call me a fish, but I think this line is inflated due to that recency bias. It’s not surprising at all to see the Nuggets as the popular side; They’re getting 63% of the bets and 73% of the money so far. We’re predicting the line is going to move even further up to -6 in the short term.

To be fair, it seems sharp bettors are on the Nuggets’ side here. Look at the steam moves on them once the market opened:

The Nuggets should absolutely be favored right now; I absolutely would’ve bet them at that Nuggets -2 number. But now we’re talking huge movement in the market; this line might close at -6 or higher. I would expect there to be some buyback from sharps as it approaches -6/-7, and I will be part of that wave.

Oh yeah, and we haven’t even talked about the Nuggets, who just lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers last time we saw them. They have a negative point differential over the past two weeks. Yeah, I’ll buy low on one of the best regular season teams we’ve ever seen. If I look like a fool and they get blown out, so be it. I’ll go down with that ship.

PICK: Bucks -5.5


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.