Sunday NBA Betting Odds, Preview, Prediction for Mavericks vs. Bucks: Bet Game Total in Superstar-Driven Matchup

Sunday NBA Betting Odds, Preview, Prediction for Mavericks vs. Bucks: Bet Game Total in Superstar-Driven Matchup article feature image

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo.

  • The Bucks are home favorites against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks this afternoon.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off two potential MVP-winning performances, although Dallas has an elite defense.
  • Raheem Palmer breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.

Mavericks vs. Bucks Odds

Mavericks Odds-4.5
Bucks Odds+4.5
Time1 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The playoffs are just a few weeks away, and we've reached the home stretch of the season with teams battling for seeding. It doesn't get any better than Sunday afternoon's matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks.

Both teams are looking to bounce back from blowout losses, as the Bucks rested their starters and lost 153-119 to the Clippers on Friday, while the Mavericks fell 135-103 to the Wizards, who were motivated with former Mavericks forward Kristraps Porzingis on the squad. Oddsmakers opened this game with the Bucks as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 228.

These teams played back on Dec. 23 when, Milwaukee won 102-95, although both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic were out.

So, where is the betting value for this matchup? Let's analyze both sides and find out!

Dallas' Surprising Defense Will Be Tested

The Mavericks are one of the more surprising teams this season.

While the presence of Doncic has always made them a team to be excited about, I don't think anyone believed the Mavericks profiled as a team with top-10 defense. After spending much of the Doncic era as a team who won with offense and couldn't get consistent stops, the 2021-22 Mavericks are eighth in Defensive Rating, holding opposing teams to 110.4 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes.

While many were critical of the Mavs for hiring Jason Kidd, this team is fifth in eFG% (52.6%), 14th in turnover rate (13.8%) and ninth in opponent free throw rate (18.3%).

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they've seen their defense slip over the past two weeks, during which they're allowing 119.5 points per 100 possessions,  which is 22nd.

In Dallas' Friday night 135-103 loss to the Wizards, it gave up 130 points on 1.39 points per possession. While a lot of that was due to the Wizards going 17-of-33 (51.5%) from behind the arc, the performance shows us how the Mavs could have major issues against the Bucks.

Dallas allowed the Wizards to shoot 80% at the rim, which shows it's lacking big men after trading Porzingis. Even before their recent defensive slippage over the past two weeks, the Mavs ranked 22nd in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.4%). That means it's tough to imagine them slowing down Antetokounmpo.

While they may struggle defensively, Doncic's playmaking always gives the Mavericks a chance. While Dallas is just 14th in Offensive Rating (113.1) for the season, it's eighth over the past two weeks, scoring 119.1 points per 100 possessions.

The Mavs' current starting lineup of Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell is scoring 126.3 points per 100 possessions and outscoring teams by +9.5 points per 100 possessions.

Dallas also improved offensively after trading Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, which gave it more shooting.  Since the deadline, this team is sixth in eFG% (56.2%), up from 13th (53.8%).

Whether that offensive improvement will be enough against Milwaukee is a serious question mark.

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Giannis-Powered Bucks Have Elite Offense

The defending-champion Bucks resting their starters was a warranted move for a team with championship aspirations. The rest was also well deserved after a come-from-behind 120-119 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Giannis has been playing on a level that could win him his third Most Valuable Player Award. The reigning Finals MVP is averaging 30.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 55.4% shooting.

What makes things scary for opposing teams looking to knock the Bucks off their throne is that Antetokounmpo appears to be getting better. In Milwaukee's comeback win against the Nets, he took a step back 3-pointer to send the game into overtime, leading the team to victory behind 44 points on 14-of-21 (66.7%) shooting along with 14 rebounds and six assists.

In the Bucks' previous game against the 76ers, Antetokounmpo led a comeback victory scoring 17 consecutive points, finishing with 40 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

Whether he's awarded the MVP Award or not, it's pretty clear that the Bucks have the league's best player. It's tough to bet against that on a nightly basis.

The Bucks are fifth in Offensive Rating (115.2) this season but this defense has slipped from what we've seen in the Mike Budenholzer era. Although some of this can be blamed on the absence of Brook Lopez, who missed much of the season due to injury, this team still hasn't been great defensively since his return.

Over the past two weeks, the Bucks are just 24th in Defensive Rating, allowing a whopping 120.1 points per 100 possessions. This is also a team which gives up the second-highest percentage of 3-point field goal attempts (41.7%) and are just 21st in opponents' 3-point shooting percentage (36.3%). This is problematic against a Mavs team which shoots the fifth-highest percentage of 3-point field goal attempts (40.7%).

Milwaukee has been getting lit up from behind the arc with the 76ers, Nets and Clippers making 16, 18 and 23 3-point attempts while shooting 40% or above from behind the arc.

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Mavericks-Bucks Pick

Both teams are hyper-efficient offensively, and this feels like a shootout with both matching up well against the opposing teams' weaknesses. The Mavericks should struggle to stop Antetokounmpo inside, while the Bucks should struggle to stop Dallas' 3-point attack.

Still, pace means just as much in regards to handicapping totals as offensive and defensive efficiency. The Mavericks happen to play the slowest pace in the league at 95.1 possessions a game. They're also dead last in Offensive length of possession (15.6 seconds).

While the Bucks are on the total opposite end of the spectrum, ranking 4th in pace (100.1) and first in offensive length of possession (14 seconds), they're 24th in Defensive Length of Possession (14.8 seconds). That indicates Milwaukee tends to slow opposition down defensively.

The Bucks and Mavs rank second and third in transition points per possession, which means we won't see much fast-break scoring. That could be enough to keep this game under.

These have been two under teams this season, with the Mavs going 49-28-1 to the under and the Bucks 39-38.

My model makes this total 222, so I have to play the under here. I'd only play this to 225, though, given how much these defenses have struggled recently.

Pick: Under 228

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