Bucks-Rockets Betting Guide: Houston in Rare Spot as Home Dog

Bucks-Rockets Betting Guide: Houston in Rare Spot as Home Dog article feature image
Credit:

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), James Harden (13).

Betting Odds: Milwaukee Bucks at Houston Rockets

  • Spread: Bucks -1.5
  • Over/Under: 227.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

>> All odds as of 1 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets


The 28-11 Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the league’s best point differential, will travel to Houston tonight to take on the hot 23-16 Rockets.

James Harden and Co. find themselves in a rare spot as home dogs. Can they cover tonight? Our analysts discuss.


Betting Trends to Know

The Rockets opened as a 1-point home favorite against the second-best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks.

After early betting, the Bucks are up to 1.5-point road favorites (find live odds here), moving the spread in Milwaukee’s direction.

Under head coach Mike D’Antoni (since 2016-17 season), the Rockets have played just two home games in which they opened a favorite and closed an underdog:

  • Dec. 27, 2018 vs. Celtics: Opened -2 | Closed +2.5 | Won 127-113
  • Dec. 25, 2018 vs. Thunder: Opened -1.5 | Closed +1 | Won 113-109
    Evan Abrams

The Bucks are small road favorites in Houston against the Rockets (23-16). Under D’Antoni, Houston is 12-7 against the spread when facing an opponent with a winning percentage at least 10% better, including 6-2 ATS when listed as an underdog. John Ewing

Since James Harden arrived in Houston in 2012, the Rockets have been home underdogs just 29 times. They’re 19-10 ATS in those contests, including 2-0 this season — back-to-back wins a couple weeks ago against the Celtics and Thunder. Bryan Mears


Mears: Why I’m Betting Houston Tonight

This is the game I’ve been most excited to see this season, mostly thanks to one specific matchup-related narrative.

The Bucks have clearly been one of the league’s best teams this year, and they sit miles above the rest of the NBA with a stellar +9.3 net rating. They’re second in offensive rating, fourth in defensive rating, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has proven himself to be one of the league’s best players already.

They can beat any team, and clearly the betting market agrees as they are road favorites against a red-hot Rockets squad. But Houston’s offense is set up to specifically give Milwaukee’s defense fits, and I’m very interested to see how that side of the ball goes tonight.

The Bucks have a unique defensive scheme: They sell out to protect the paint, and the numbers bear that out. On the year, they’re allowing the lowest percentage of shots at the rim (29.7%) by a wide margin.

That’s a great indication of a healthy defense, but, of course, shots have to be taken from somewhere. And their scheme has allowed 3-pointers at the highest rate in the league (36.3%). They rank 23rd (37.0%) in 3-point percentage allowed.

You can see where this is headed: Will that scheme be problematic against the inventors of Moreyball, the team that is smashing records in terms of attempted and made 3s?

The Rockets are still hoisting them up at historic rates this season; in fact, their 47.0% 3-point rate is the only mark at 40% or higher. Essentially half of their shots are 3-pointers. It’s astounding.

And that number might be even higher tonight against the Bucks who specifically encourage such shots. Further, per NBA.com, the Bucks allow the second-highest percentage of “wide open” 3-pointers — classified has having a defender six-plus feet away.

The Bucks’ defensive scheme clearly hasn’t hampered them so far this year — but they also haven’t played such an extreme offense like Houston’s.

I’ll lean Rockets +1.5 for that reason and am super excited to watch this matchup unfold. 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.