Lakers vs. Bucks Betting Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions: Are LeBron & Co. Vulnerable on the Road?
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23).
Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions
- Spread: Bucks -4
- Over/Under: 226
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: TNT
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.
Have you heard the Lakers and Bucks are playing each other on Thursday night? It’s obviously very early, but these two teams will face off in a potential NBA Finals preview.
Our NBA crew breaks down all the angles of the matchup below.
Betting Trend to Know
With identical 24-4 records (.875 win percentage) entering Thursday, the Lakers and Bucks are easily the top two teams in the NBA.
Since the 2008-09 season, teams sporting a win percentage above 80% have faced each other 22 times in December or later. Favorites in those games went 13-9 against the spread per our Bet Labs data. — Malik Smith
Bryan Mears: Injury News Looms
Despite both teams sitting at 24-4, they’re both coming off losses — the Lakers to the Pacers without Anthony Davis on Tuesday and the Bucks to the Mavs without Eric Bledsoe on Monday.
Injury-wise for tonight, Anthony Davis is questionable to suit up with that sprained right ankle, Kyle Kuzma is out and Rajon Rondo is probable with a sore left hamstring. For the Bucks, they’ll continue to be without Bledsoe, who will miss around two weeks with a fractured fibula.
That Mavs game Monday was very disappointing. The Bucks didn’t just fail to cover the double-digit spread but lost outright at home despite Dallas missing its most valuable player.
That was probably pretty fluky, however: The Bucks got a good amount of open shots but just couldn’t hit anything. A high 21.9% of their 3-pointers — 23 of them in total — were classified as “wide open” by NBA.com, and the Bucks hit just 21.7% of them. The Bucks aren’t the shooting team they were last season, ranking middle of the pack in 3-point efficiency, but Monday’s game was likely incredibly unlucky.
The same was true on defense. The Mavs posted a 70.8% eFG% mark on open shots on Monday, including hitting 50% of their 3-pointers.
Bledsoe is a good player, but it’s unclear how much exactly he’s worth to this team. On the year, all lineups without Bledsoe have posted a Net Rating of +10.1. In the 698 possessions Giannis Antetokounmpo has played without Bledsoe, the Bucks have been at a +7.4 mark. That’s not as elite as their overall team metrics, but they’ve still been quite good.
The same has largely been true with Davis for the Lakers, which is a little odd. Without him on the floor, the Lakers have posted a +7.3 Net Rating in 811 possessions. With him playing, they’ve been at +8.6. With LeBron James on and AD off, the Lakers have posted a +10.5 point differential.
Obviously, the Lakers are not better without Davis; those numbers are still a small sample, and they’re inflated by opponent, bench units, etc. Further, I’ve discussed this a lot and it’s really true tonight: Player value is not in a vacuum. It depends on a variety of factors, one of which is opponent, and you can make the argument pretty easily that Davis (or any good player) is worth more against the Bucks than he is against the Hawks.
I think the current line is hedging a little bit with the Davis news with more weight on him playing. If he plays, it’ll likely move more toward Bucks -3, and if he’s out it’ll balloon farther to Bucks -6 or so. If you are just trying to grab a little CLV, you’ll likely get it either way.
Let’s talk about this game assuming Davis plays. This is honestly one of the more fascinating matchups in the NBA given how these teams play. They’re obviously both elite, each ranking in the top-five on both offense and defense.
But how the Lakers play offensively will be fascinating to watch. The Bucks have gone against the past few years trend of switching defenses, instead going incredibly conservative within pick-and-rolls, dropping the big way down and completely selling out to protect the paint. Yet again this season, they’re near the top of the league in 3s given up (28th) and near the bottom of the league in shots allowed at the rim (1st).
Look at this possession against the Mavs the other day:
Even before the pick-and-roll, when Jalen Brunson initially passes to Dwight Powell, Brook Lopez is way off, with two feet firmly in the lane. Powell tries to drive into the lane, but that’s exactly what the Bucks try to prevent, and Lopez is there to stop him. Then when he kicks back out and the Mavs initiate a pick-and-roll, Lopez stays in the lane.
Look at where he’s at when Brunson kicks out to Powell for the 3:
That is incredibly emblematic of the Bucks’ scheme: protect the paint at all costs and rely on their athletic wings to close out.
Now this is interesting because on offense the Lakers attack the rim frequently (second in shots there) and rarely take 3s (25th in rate). It’s the immovable object vs. unstoppable force debate. The Bucks won’t cave; I can assure that. So will the Lakers adjust and take the open 3s available? Our will they fight strength vs. strength and try to attack the rim with Davis and LeBron?
That, my friends, is the most important question of the night.
Regarding bets tonight, it obviously depends on whether AD plays or sits, and as noted above, there will likely be value either way initially. If Davis is confirmed in, there’s likely value on the Lakers if the line is above +4. If he’s out, the Bucks will be a solid bet at that number. — Bryan Mears
Matt Moore: Figuring Out the Math
This is a tough nut to crack. The Lakers are a great team, and are 3-0 against the spread as underdogs. They started the season as a great defense with a middling offense, and then figured out how to get their offense going.
This matchup features the No. 5 and No. 4 defense (Lakers) vs. the No. 2 offense (Bucks) and No. 1 defense. (Milwaukee will be No. 1 in offense by the end of the season when Dallas cools off from an unsustainable start)
These are two great teams with good ATS records. More than that, this is a super high-variance game. The Lakers are a low 3-point shooting team facing a Bucks team that allows the most 3-point attempts per 100 possessions in the league, and the Bucks are a high-3-point volume team facing a Lakers team that ranks 14th in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions allowed, but fifth in opponent percentage.
The swings, they are immense here.
However, if you’re looking for value, I think it’s on the Bucks (-4) and the under.
For starters, the Bucks under Mike Budenholzer are 10-7-1 (59%) against teams with a winning percentage of 60% or better. The Lakers are obviously better than that, but just as a starting point. The Lakers are 6-4 (60%) vs. such teams, which seems like a wash, but with the Bucks at home I lean a little in that direction.
More notable, however, is the profile of Milwaukee. The Lakers this season vs. teams that are top 10 in defensive rating are just 3-4 (43%) ATS. Against those teams, they average just 103 points per game.
Milwaukee is the No. 1 team in defending the paint this season. Brook Lopez absolutely envelops guys by contesting at 7 feet without fouling (or jumping or moving). The Bucks give up the third-worst expected opponent effective field goal percentage league-wide according to PBPStats.com.
So the Lakers, who don’t take a lot of 3’s (25th in 3-point rate), on the road vs. a top-notch defense that gives up 3’s (which the Lakers don’t take) and defends the rim at an elite level (which is what the Lakers are best at), while also a team that takes a ton of 3’s.
A quick note on the Lakers’ offense inside: the Lakers are a top-ranked team in points per game on both cuts and on the lob in pick and roll. The Bucks are excellent vs. cuts; the allow the fewest attempts and field goal percentage on cuts in the league per Synergy Sports.
In pick-and-rolls the Bucks give up the second-most possessions to the ball-handler shooting, but the second-lowest field goal percentage on such shots. On passes to the roll man, where the Lakers are so dangerous, the Bucks give up the most possessions per game league-wide and the lowest field goal percentage.
The Bucks play drop coverage with the big dropping underneath. If you have a springy guard who can shoot off the dribble or a big wing who can get his own shot, you can give them trouble. The Lakers do not, it’s one of their biggest areas of weakness.
Now, Anthony Davis (questionable), JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard will all get some. But it’s a lot of work trying to beat the Bucks at what they’re best at.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee shoots the third-most threes per 100 possessions in the league, while the Lakers give up a league average (14th) rate, but a top-five percentage.
The Lakers may force the Bucks into a low percentage, but the volume itself will matter here. This is the Math Problem. The Lakers are constantly looking to create 2-point shots, the Bucks are always looking for 3’s (or Giannis dunks).
Even if the Lakers manage to shut off the paint from Giannis and contest the 3’s at a good rate, the Bucks’ success rate has to be so much lower because of the 3-vs.-2 differential than the Lakers’ has to be.
I think there’s a good chance the Lakers manage to slow down the Bucks’ offense; they have that much length and discipline, and Milwaukee can go absolutely frozen from time to time from deep, often at the worst times, seemingly. But even if so, that will take a lot of energy out of the Lakers, whose offensive hill to climb is even steeper.
I’ll play the math, here, and trust the Bucks defense. — Matt Moore
Bet: Under 225 | Bucks -4 | Lakers Under 110
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.