Bucks-76ers Betting Preview: Can Giannis & Co. Clinch the East in Philly?

Bucks-76ers Betting Preview: Can Giannis & Co. Clinch the East in Philly? article feature image

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34).

Betting Odds: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Spread: Bucks -4.5
  • Over/Under: 230.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: TNT

The last time these two teams played each other fans were treated to a show. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a career-high 52 points, but Joel Embiid had his fifth 40-point game of the season in a win.

Can the Bucks pay the Sixers back with playoff implications at stake?

Our analysts discuss.

What’s at Stake

The Bucks have a chance to clinch the Eastern Conference with a win over the 76ers on Thursday night. They’ve been the best team in the NBA for the past two months, but securing the top spot and home court would be beneficial for the team’s health moving forward.

Betting Trends to Know

The Sixers are now a week away from the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. The last thing they are interested in doing is playing on a back-to-back, which is what they will do Thursday night.

When two teams with win percentage of 60% or higher meet in March or later during the regular season and one is playing on a back-to-back while the other isn’t, the team on the schedule disadvantage really tends to struggle.

Since 2005, those teams on a schedule disadvantage are 52-80-3 (39.4%) against the spread. — Evan Abrams

When two teams that have won at least 60% of their games play at the end of the season (April) the favorite has gone 95-70-2 (58%) ATS since 2005.

But the chalk is only 11-11 ATS when favored on the road like the Bucks. — John Ewing

Mears: How I’m Handicapping Tonight’s Game

Update at 5:30 p.m.: Jimmy Butler is out and J.J. Redick will play. Joel Embiid remains questionable.

The 76ers are in a bit of a free fall currently, having lost back-to-back to the Hawks and Mavericks and four of their last six overall. During that span, they’ve ranked 22nd with a -5.4 point differential, allowing a miserable 117.1 points per 100 possessions.

Not great.

Meanwhile, the Bucks continue to roll despite losing key players like Malcolm Brogdon for the season and dealing with some nagging injuries to Khris Middleton and  Antetokounmpo. They were especially impressive last week at home against the Rockets, holding that surging offense to just 90.1 points per 100 possessions in a 108-94 victory.

Overall, I think the Bucks are really undervalued by the public and some futures markets. They have the NBA’s best record at 58-20, and they’re also first with an incredible +9.7 point differential on the year. They boast the second-best offense and defense.

In any non-Warriors year, those marks would indicate substantial title favorites. That’s obviously not the case, as we’ll discuss over the next two weeks as the playoffs begin.

But with this game, it’s possible the 76ers are actually the undervalued squad … if they’re healthy. Embiid, Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick are all questionable tonight, while backup wing James Ennis is out.

But if those guys do play, it’s possible the public is perhaps a bit too down on the Sixers right now. They’ve stunk it up lately, sure, but that’s almost entirely because Embiid has been out.

Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21), Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11).

The Defensive Player of the Year candidate is clearly their most important player this season: The Sixers have been a silly 14.9 points/100 better with him on the floor vs. off — the 97th percentile of all players. A good chunk of that (-7.6, 96th percentile) is on the defensive end.

When he’s playing, opponents shoot 4.0% fewer shots at the rim and hit them a 5.0% lower rate. He’s clearly one of the best rim protectors in the league, and that’s incredibly important both for this Sixers’ defensive scheme, but also specifically against this Bucks team that takes 40.9% of its shots — second-most in the league — at the rim.

In short, Embiid is a game-changer when he’s playing.

And finally, there’s some sharp money early on the Sixers. The Bucks are getting 70% of the bets, which is no surprise given the difference in how these teams have played lately, but the Sixers are actually getting 53% of the spread money.

That difference indicates sharp money, and it’s been historically profitable to bet on those teams:

Of course, all this hinges on those injuries. If Butler is out, there’s value on the Bucks especially at that -4 to -6 range. If Embiid is out, try to catch the line fast, because it will certainly balloon. — 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.

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