NBA Odds, Picks, Prediction: Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks Betting Preview (Oct. 31)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Utah Jazz standouts Rudy Gobert, left, and Donovan Mitchell.
- The Milwaukee Bucks host the Utah Jazz in Sunday's NBA showdown.
- Utah is the slight favorite in this contest, sitting at -2 on the current spread line.
- Matt Moore breaks down the matchup below and dishes out his best bets in the matchup.
Jazz vs. Bucks Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
This should be an absolute heavyweight fight, but alas, it’s October (for one more day; Happy Halloween by the way) and the NBA is never kind to its best matchups. Both the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a back-to-back, with Utah on a third game in four nights.
Great job as always with the best matchups, scheduling system.
To top it off, both teams are shorthanded. So where’s the value in this matchup? Let’s break down both sides.
The Jazz Have Clear Advantages Inside
Mike Conley rested for Utah in its loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, but head coach Quin Snyder said it was a back-to-back-influenced situation, which suggests Conley should go against Milwaukee.
Despite the loss to the Bulls, the Jazz are an absolute juggernaut when it comes to regular-season play. They rank fifth in Offensive Rating, second in Defensive Rating, fourth in halfcourt Offensive Rating and first in halfcourt Defensive Rating.
Utah hasn’t even shot the ball well — 10th in effective field-goal percentage compared to third last season — but it does lead the league in differential between expected eFG% and actual, meaning the Jazz are shooting well above where they should based on shot location and contest level.
That’s a slightly worrisome sign, but given Utah’s quality array of shooters and history of consistency, it’s hard to get worked up about it.
At full strength, this is a Pacific Rim-level monster fight between two huge, physical teams that can shoot and defend at the highest levels.
Yet, with the Bucks’ injuries, it tilts in favor of the Jazz. Milwaukee is 18th in points in the paint allowed per 100 possessions and 17th in points per possession allowed at the rim on non-post-ups, per Synergy Sports.
Rudy Gobert should be able to generate lobs in the absence of Brook Lopez. Utah ranks fourth dating back to season against “soft” or “drop” pick-and-roll coverage, which is still what the Bucks are primarily using even without Lopez.
When the Bucks switch, a tactic that can work to disrupt Utah in playoff settings, Utah does have a counter by having Gobert simply slip the pick.
Without Lopez there as a secondary rim protector, the problem will be worse:
The bench for Utah is also a big strength, with Jordan Clarkson fifth among all bench scorers this season after winning Sixth Man of the Year last season. Meanwhile, the Bucks have to start George Hill, making their rotation shorter, especially without Donte DiVincenzo.
Bucks Offense Lacks Punch Due to Injuries
Jrue Holiday (foot) has been ruled out and Lopez (back) hasn’t played since the season opener. Bobby Portis was held out in the loss to San Antonio on Saturday for the back-to-back, but should be good to go. Rodney Hood made his debut versus the Spurs, but there’s no word if he’ll play on the back-to-back. DiVincenzo is still sidelined.
So yeah, the Bucks are more than a little banged up.
Truth be told, I’d love the Bucks here full strength. The Jazz defense excels in part because no one can really challenge Gobert’s size and athleticism, but Giannis Antetokounmpo makes him look like a mortal.
Lopez can space him out to 3-point range, messing with how the Jazz matchup, and against the Utah drop coverage, which they are anchored to with Gobert, Holiday would eat them alive with floaters and short mid-range shots.
However, Holiday won’t play and Lopez is unlikely to as well. So, that changes the equation.
In their three losses, Milwaukee is 23rd among all teams in losses in Offensive Rating. If you can’t keep pace with the Jazz and their 3-point shooting, you’re doomed. The Bucks can absolutely do that at full strength, but they’re not in this case.
First off, wait until tipoff before you bet this game. You want to be sure who’s playing. If Lopez is upgraded, I still like Utah, but I like them less. However, if the Jazz sit more starters on the back to back, it becomes a no play for me.
The only scenario I think this game is playable and has an edge is if the Jazz play everyone (including Conley) and the Bucks are without at least Lopez and Holiday.
Yet, in that scenario, the Jazz are clearly the side. This opened Bucks -1 and quickly flipped to Utah -1, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it move further towards Utah by tip.
Even on the back to back on the third in four nights, the Jazz are just sharper. The Bucks are treading water until they get healthy; they can afford to be patient after winning the title.
If Holiday is out, my actual favorite bet is the under. Not only do I have this projected well under the number and believe this is modeled too much based on preseason priors that don’t account for the effects of injury after a short offseason for Milwaukee, but the range of outcomes lean that direction.
If the Bucks win, it’s because the Jazz have a miserable shooting day, Antetokounmpo does his Godzilla thing and the Bucks ratchet down on defense, gumming up Utah’s ball movement with switches while Gobert gets his usual golf clap-worthy offensive performance
If the Jazz win, they might put up a big number upward of 120, but the under might still be alive by cutting the water off the Bucks without Holiday, with only Khris Middleton able to punish the drop coverage.
There is a decent chance this winds up a slugfest. Look for an ugly game with two teams in disadvantageous spots with a lot of respect for one another.
Just for kicks, the under already dropped from 224.5 to 223 points as of this writing. I think it’s playable to 220 on the total.
Pick: Under 223 (play to 220) | Jazz -1 or ML if plus-money