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Bucks vs. Pelicans Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Will Milwaukee’s Defense Lock Up Zion?

Bucks vs. Pelicans Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Will Milwaukee’s Defense Lock Up Zion? article feature image

Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bucks at Pelicans Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions

  • Spread: Bucks -6.5
  • Over/Under: 245
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: TNT

Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

Tonight is Volume 1 of Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Zion Williamson — what could be one of the NBA’s great rivalries over the next decade.

The Bucks are big favorites on the road; where’s the value? Our experts break down everything you need to know below.

Betting Trend to Know

The Pelicans-Bucks total opened at 245.5. This is the second-highest over/under in the Bet Labs database.

Since 2005, in games with totals of 240 or more points, the under has gone 25-15. John Ewing

Matt Moore: How I’m Betting Tonight’s Game

The Bucks under Mike Budenholzer are 22-9-1 ATS (71%) as a six-point favorite or more on the road.

These are two extremely fast teams —  No. 1 vs. No. 5 in both pace and fastbreak points … hence the crazy-high over. But the key here is that Milwaukee’s halfcourt defense is spectacular. The Pelicans defense had a brief period of improvement but has fallen backwards again, back to 25th in Defensive Rating.

The Bucks are going to absolutely rack up a huge point total. However, their halfcourt defense is so good that they’ll suppress the Pelicans’ point total. The pace also means there are more possessions, and this gets the Bucks downhill.

They just inch above you possession by possession, and if you don’t grind it down, it makes it very easy for them to blow the game open. — Matt Moore

THE PICKS: Bucks -6.5, Under 246

Bryan Mears: Will Zion Get to the Rim?

Giannis vs. Zion. It doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s also a fascinating matchup given Zion’s strengths and how the Bucks design their defensive scheme.

The Bucks really pack the paint and allow a ton of 3-pointers. It’s by design, too: They drop their bigs way down in pick-and-roll coverage and rely on their athletic guards and wings to cover ground and close out on shooters. As a result, they allow the fewest shots in the league by a lot at the rim but the third-most 3s.

The Pelicans this season actually like to shoot from outside, ranking 17th in shots at the rim and fifth in 3-point rate. That’s shifted a bit over the last month or so, however: Since Jan. 1, they rank sixth in shots at the rim vs. 11th in 3-point rate.

And Zion is a big part of that. Look at these recent game logs for the Pels since he debuted:

Zion showed that outside stroke in the first game, hitting all four of his 3-pointers in that second-half explosion. But since then he has attempted just two total in five games and hasn’t hit one. In his last three games, he hasn’t even gotten a single attempt up.

With that Bucks scheme, big men are the biggest threat with how the Milwaukee centers drop in coverage. That leaves a lot of open space for the roll man — Zion and Derrick Favors to start — to shoot or operate in the mid-range. Will they be comfortable in that role? Or will they try to force the issue inside? And if so, will that work?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I would lean toward the Pelicans potentially struggling to adjust to that defensive scheme. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a ton of value in the betting market with that assumption.

The value if anything is on New Orleans here as a 6.5-point home dog; I think that’s about right. I would lean toward the under at 245 or higher, but again I think that’s probably about right, too.  — Bryan Mears

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.

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