Clippers vs. Bucks Betting Picks & Odds: Can Milwaukee Win 14 Straight?

Clippers vs. Bucks Betting Picks & Odds: Can Milwaukee Win 14 Straight? article feature image
Credit:

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), LA Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell (5).

Clippers at Bucks Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds

  • Spread: Bucks -4
  • Over/Under: 233
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Odds as of Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard is a matchup every basketball fan would sign up for and it’s the matchup we get on Friday night as the two meet in Milwaukee.

The Bucks have the the longest win streak in the NBA (13 games), are tied with the Lakers and are four-point favorites. So how should you bet the matchup?

Our NBA experts break it all down.

Betting Trend to Know

The Bucks (19-3) are four-point favorites against the Clippers (16-6). Since 2005, when two good teams (won at least 70% of games) meet in the regular season the underdog has gone 199-169-7 (54%) against the spread.

In non-conference matchups like tonight’s games, the underdog has gone 79-52-2 (60%) ATS. History points to value on the Clippers. — John Ewing

Bryan Mears: Is Motivation a Real Factor?

It’s the game of the night season, and somehow it’s not on national TV? Not sure the reasoning on that one.

There’s still a ton of uncertainty around the Clippers: It’s December, and their potential closing lineup in the playoffs still hasn’t played a single possession together (that’s if Landry Shamet rebounds from a tough beginning of the year and an injury). Even Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played just 344 possessions together ever.

Those lineups have been solid, posting a +8.7 Net Rating, with almost all of that positive value coming on the defensive end. Interestingly, those lineups have rarely gotten to the rim — 29.3% of the possessions, fifth percentile.

Further making this game tough to handicap is the fact that when these teams met earlier in the season, Kawhi Leonard sat to rest and Paul George wasn’t back from injury. The Clips still battled, losing by five at home and actually covering the spread. For what it’s worth, the line was around Bucks +1 before Kawhi was ruled out, and it closed at -6.5. Bucks +1 suggests that with Kawhi but no PG the Bucks were about two points better. Today’s line — Bucks -3.5 with Paul George playing — suggests the Bucks are about a half-point to a point better.

One battle I think is going to be crucial in this one is on the bench. With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton off the floor, the Bucks have still beaten teams by 7.1 points per 100 possessions. The main Clippers bench lineup this season — Lou Williams, Rodney McGruder, Jerome Robinson, JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell — has posted a stupid +34.9 Net Rating. The Clips unit has bigger names, but the Bucks are deep and have been so good this year.

Motivation is also an interesting factor here. I usually hate talking about this because it’s a nearly data-less issue and feels very First Take-y. But Kawhi and Co. have little to prove; they’re veterans and have their eye on the title. Kawhi sitting on national TV the last game at least suggests that’s true. The Bucks, meanwhile, haven’t been resting Giannis, and they seemingly want to prove they’re legit title contenders after Kawhi came out of the East a year ago.

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure if I buy the motivation angle. It seems thin at best, and I don’t think Kawhi and PG are the type of guys to play lazily while on the floor. If they’re out there, and it seems they will be, they’re going to want to win the game and continue to jell together.

Let’s talk about how things will go on the court. I’ve written a lot about the Bucks defense because of how unique it is. After switching became so en vogue in the league, the Bucks after Jason Kidd adjusted to a conservative style, dropping their bigs into the paint and relying on their athleticism and length to help well enough.

It’s obviously worked given the Bucks’ defensive efficiency marks over the last couple of seasons, but it has brought about some crazy splits: This year they’ve allowed the fewest shots at the rim but the third-most 3-pointers. They also allow a bunch of mid-rangers, as their big drops and typically allows that shot in favor of letting the ball-handler get close to the rim. That was the case last year, too.

Look at this play from Monday as an example. Look how far Robin Lopez drops when defending the pick-and-roll. The result is an open mid-ranger for RJ Barrett:

That might be a bit of an extreme example, but it highlights the scheme and the type of shots the Bucks are willing to give up. Further, a lot of the 3s they let up are to big men as opposed to guards, and mostly off those pick-and-pops. It’s honestly a smart strategy and is seemingly based on math.

The problem: The Clippers have three of the best shooters, especially in the mid-range, in the entire league in Kawhi, PG and Lou Williams.

You’ve heard the cliché: it’s a make-or-miss league. It’s simultaneously true and also not a reason to not try to analyze and handicap the game. Just because it’s often random in areas doesn’t mean it’s completely random.

But in this game, as much as it might seem like a cop-out, I think it’s going to come down to whether the Clips can hit the shots they’re getting from the Bucks defense, which dictates a lot things. If so, the Clippers will likely win this game outside of a Milwaukee offensive explosion. If not, the Bucks will sweep the series. As a result of that potential randomness, this game is a stay away for me. Bryan Mears

Moore: Will the Bucks’ Defense Slow the Clippers?

Short jumpers. I know, that’s a really narrow slice of the analysis pie, but it matters considerably for the Clippers’ chances on the road vs. the Bucks.

The Clippers take the fifth-most short jumpers, inside 17 feet, in the league per Synergy Sports. Leonard leads the league in shots from that range; it’s his go-to, the little pull-up.

However, the Bucks’ scheme is specifically built to deter and contest those shots as Mears noted. They shrink the floor and focus on the paint and the area around it. Think of the Bucks’ defense like a pool of focus, deepest at the rim, and then lighter and lighter toward the outside. The Bucks give up the most 3-point attempts in the league, but contain everything inside.

Without Shamet, the Clippers are short one significant perimeter shooter. They’re reliant on guys like Mo Harkless and Patrick Patterson, who can be good shooters, but are also guys who have faltered at times, particularly on big shots.

The Bucks’ defense matches up better vs. the Clippers than most teams, and the Clippers, with their length, match up better vs. the Bucks than most teams, as the third-best team defending spot-ups while able to throw PG or Leonard on Antetokounmpo. Throw in a high total of 233 and I like the under here. Matt Moore

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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.