Photo credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Betting odds: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers
- Spread: Bucks -1.5
- Over/Under: 228
- Time: 10 p.m. ET
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The 8-1 Milwaukee Bucks travel to Portland tonight to take on the Blazers, winners of four of their last five games. Can Giannis and Co. cover as a short road favorite or will Dame and his crew pull off the upset? Our analysts are here to discuss.
Mears: Keep Buying the Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are 8-1 this season and just behind only the Warriors with a +16.0 Net Rating, per Cleaning the Glass. They are second in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Is this play sustainable?
Offensively, I believe it is. They have a MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo taking another leap, and it’s hard to overstate how much better new head coach Mike Budenholzer is compared to Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty.
Their offensive shot profile is incredibly modern now. The Bucks rank eighth in percentage of shots at the rim and second in 3-point rate, jacking them up on a whopping 41.0% of their possessions. Their shooters, like Khris Middleton, have had awesome seasons, and as a result the Bucks rank second in field goal percentage at the rim and fifth in 3-point percentage.
Defensively, there are a couple question marks I’ll be tracking throughout the year as the sample size grows. The Bucks have been great limiting shots at the rim: They rank first, allowing opponents to shoot there just 28.2% of the time, and opponents have made just 56.7% of their attempts — the second-lowest mark in the league.
That said, Milwaukee is allowing a ton of 3-pointers, ranking 27th in that regard, although opponents have hit just 33.6% of them — the eighth-lowest mark in the league. That will regress, although I will note that Milwaukee isn’t letting up easy 3-pointers: They’re seventh in percentage of corner-3s allowed and dead last in allowing non corner-3s. The former is obviously much more efficient, and that’s a good sign that even if regression comes in the form of opponent shooting, it may not be that severe.
It may not be that important tonight, anyway. Portland has hit 50.0% of its corner-3s this year — the second-best mark in the league — but rarely takes them. The Blazers thrive at getting to the rim, which is exactly what Milwaukee’s defense is schemed to stop.
I’m still buying the Bucks, although I’m afraid the spread value is lost after movement Tuesday morning. Our power ratings suggest the Bucks should be a one-point-ish road favorite, but the Blazers opened at -1. The line has since moved to Bucks -1.5, however, so I’ll be waiting to see if it moves back in Portland’s favor. — Bryan Mears
Betting Trends to Know
Milwaukee won its previous game 144-109 against Sacramento, and Portland beat Minnesota 111-81 the last time out. This is just the fourth game since 2005 featuring a pair of teams that won their previous games by 30 or more points. The road team covered the spread in the previous three games.
When two good teams (a win rate of at least .700) play, the underdog has gone 183-159-6 (54%) ATS since 2005. In non-conference games, the underdog has gone 71-48-1 (60%) ATS. — John Ewing
The 8-1 Bucks’ only loss this season came two games ago on the road against the Celtics. Milwaukee now tries to bounce back on the road after beating and covering against the Kings.
One obstacle in the Bucks’ way could be the past performance of Giannis Antetokounmpo in Portland. Giannis has played five games in Rip City in his career and is averaging only 15 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 2.6 APG, shooting 40.6% from the field and 20.0% from beyond the arc (5 of 18).
Giannis’ 40.6% shooting on the road in Portland is his second-lowest mark of any arena (40.0% in San Antonio), and in his last three games in Portland, he has shot 39.3%, not eclipsing more than 22 points in any game.
The Bucks ended the 2017-18 season averaging 106.5 PPG (15th) with an Offensive Efficiency of 108.8 (10th). So far in 2018-19, their offense is dominating: The Bucks are averaging 121.9 PPG (2nd) with an Offensive Efficiency of 114.7 (3rd).
That said, Portland coach Terry Stotts has historically done well against elite offenses: In his career with the Blazers since 2012-13, Portland is 36-25-2 ATS (59%) when facing teams with an Offensive Efficiency of 110 or higher, profiting bettors 9.3 units, making Stotts the third-most profitable coach in the NBA behind just Steve Kerr and Brad Stevens against great offenses.
When the Blazers are at home in this spot, they are 23-11-2 ATS (67.6%), making the Moda Center the most profitable home arena in the NBA in this spot. — Evan Abrams
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.