Bucks vs. Nets NBA Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Back Proven Milwaukee Squad (Jan. 18)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images.
- The Bucks are a short favorite over the Nets in a meeting of Eastern Conference powers on Monday night.
- Milwaukee has been as dominant as ever in the early going, while Brooklyn thinned out its bench and mortgaged the future to bring in James Harden.
- Brandon Anderson thinks the Bucks are the more complete team and are priced too short since the Nets have so many unknowns:
Bucks vs. Nets Odds
|Bucks Odds||-2 [BET NOW]|
|Nets Odds||+2 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-130/+110 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||238 [BET NOW]|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
This is without question the gem of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day NBA schedule. A game with the Bucks and Nets would already have been highly anticipated — it’s no mistake this is in such a marquee spot, after all — but now it’s absolute must-watch basketball after the James Harden trade.
The Brooklyn Nets sent shock waves through the NBA last week when they blew up their roster and their future by trading just about everything for James Harden. Gone are Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. Goodbye every draft pick til kingdom come. Hello Brooklyn Big Three.
Harden joins Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to create one of the most gifted trios in NBA history, and it’s possible tonight will be our first time to see them all on the court together. Irving hasn’t been cleared as of writing, and our Insiders tool is putting him at 50% to suit up.
The Nets are suddenly Eastern Conference favorites, and they’ve taken the place of the Milwaukee Bucks, who made a Big Three of their own this summer when they also traded away a glut of future draft picks for Jrue Holiday. And though Holiday and the Bucks aren’t as splashy, the Bucks are off to a strong start to the new season.
Now this looks like the first of many matchups to come this season and a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview. So will it live up to billing?
Let’s start with the Bucks, because we have a pretty good handle on this team.
The Bucks are really good — at least in the regular season. Milwaukee is 9-4 and ranks near the top of most advanced team metrics. Their team profile is about as good as any team in the NBA. The Bucks have gotten off to a torrid shooting start and rank second in the league in Offensive Efficiency, with Khris Middleton leading the way at 53% from the field and nearly 47% from behind the arc.
The Bucks lead the league in effective field goal percentage. They’re dominant on the offensive glass with an elite shot profile and efficiency, and Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t even been his typical great MVP self yet.
The addition of Jrue Holiday has diversified this offense, and the Bucks have three players averaging at least five assists per game right now. They’re also getting a mini break out from Donte DiVincenzo, now in the starting lineup, as well as a bit of a renaissance from Brook Lopez.
Lopez struggled to start the season but has turned up the notch on both ends. His shots have been falling better this season, and both he and Antetokounmpo have stepped up defensively over the past couple weeks. The Bucks now rank among the top quarter of the league in defense after looking early on like they might be more of an average unit this season. Remember, this was a historically great defense last year, and they’re trending toward the top of the league on that end again.
The Bucks are really good, again, still. Seven of their nine wins have come by double digits, and their Net Rating of +10.6 rates second best in the NBA. Milwaukee still has plenty of questions to answer about late game performance and the highest level of the playoffs, but we know this is an elite regular season team.
It’s really hard to know much of anything about these Nets just yet. We have exactly one game of data, and even that game doesn’t tell us much since Irving wasn’t playing yet and since Harden joined the team officially just hours before the game.
Even so, Harden was terrific and looked like his old self. Harden set a Nets franchise debut record with 14 assists and became the first Net ever to record a triple-double in his debut with 32 points and 12 rebounds to boot. Naysayers might point out that he was just one turnover away from a quadruple-double, but the key stat for Harden might have been his free throws.
In Harden’s last four games before the trade, he shot just 14 free throws, leaving many to wonder if he just wasn’t trying hard enough. He had 15 in this one game alone and looked far more aggressive, so you can draw your own conclusions there.
Harden and Durant looked more than happy to share the ball and get others involved. Durant had five assists of his own, in addition to Harden’s 14. Joe Harris took nine 3-point attempts, most of them open. He’s expected to start alongside Brooklyn’s Big Three, and he’s going to continue to get a ton of wide open catch-and-shoot threes. DeAndre Jordan also returned to the starting lineup but had a poor outing, playing just 23 minutes and finishing as the only Net with a negative plus-minus in a win.
Jordan is the only reliable big man left on Brooklyn’s roster, and “reliable” is quite generous. The Nets have struggled mightily on defense and on the glass all year, and they just traded their best defender and rebounder in Jarrett Allen.
Brooklyn allows the most 2-point attempts in the league and just added James Harden to a roster of guys who don’t exactly have a reputation for prioritizing defense. Allen had helped this team rate near the top of the league in 2-point percentage on defense, but that could be a big problem for this team if it hopes to make a big run.
For the Nets, the mission is clear: simply outscore the other team and hope they can’t keep up. They did that against the Magic with a 122-115 win in Harden’s debut, and a win is a win, but it’s worrying that Orlando had failed to score 100 in five straight games before putting up 115 on the Nets and pushing them all the way without three of their starters.
The Nets’ ceiling is obvious, but it remains to be seen how often they’ll get there, and how quickly. This team feels like it could score 130 any given night, but they might give up 135 some nights, too.
It sure was exciting to see Durant and Harden back together again. Durant put up 42 points next to Harden’s triple-double, and the two seemed to share the ball just fine. But 15 turnovers between the two is a bit troubling and gave the Magic an opportunity to stay in the game, and the Nets got little help from anyone outside of those two and some Joe Harris jumpers.
One of the biggest Milwaukee weaknesses — one of the only ones, really — is their weaker bench this year. The Nets are not in position to exploit that weakness. Brooklyn’s bench is even thinner now. This team goes about eight deep, and that’s if everyone is playing.
Brooklyn posted a 119.0 Offensive Rating in their one game with Harden, which would lead the NBA for the season. And though I expect Harden to slow their pace down in time, the Nets’ pace of 102.5 matched their season average exactly, still a pretty high pace. There’s a reason this line is pushing 240.
Still, this is an extremely high line, even with Nets games going over eight straight times. Bucks games have gone under in four straight, and even the Nets have only gone over 237.5 in games only twice all year. I lean under here with Bucks defense playing well and the Nets still working out the kinks with their new roster.
Really though, those kinks just push me to trust the Bucks here. Would I pick Milwaukee over Brooklyn in a playoff series? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s irrelevant for one regular season game. One of these teams is playing great defense and elite offense like a well-oiled machine. The other is a new team that’s never played together for a minute, if Kyrie plays, or for one game otherwise.
Remember how the Nets have been bad on defense and on the glass all year and how they just traded their one player who was good at both? The Bucks are a terrific rebounding team, and they’re elite at finding and converting easy looks on offense. And with this Brooklyn defense, there will be a lot of easy looks available.
The Nets need to prove it against a great team before I believe. Brooklyn may struggle to score against a good defense, and the Bucks are going to get a ton of extra opportunities on the glass and from a team unfamiliar with one another piling up turnovers. Honestly, I won’t be shocked if this turns into a bit of a runaway. I’d consider giving some points back to play a longer Bucks line, and I’d also considering parlaying a Bucks cover with an under. A shootout favors the Nets, after all.
I like the Bucks to win and cover. Brooklyn has all the hype right now, but the Bucks might like to offer a little reminder that the road to the Finals still runs through Milwaukee in the East.
Pick: Bucks -2
Brook Lopez over 0.5 assists (-143)
This is the top prop on our entire board on Monday, offering a rarely-seen 38.1% edge in our favor at BetMGM.
Lopez failed to record an assist his first five games of the season, just a statistical anomaly really, but the books have failed to adjust after BroLo scared them away. He’s had at least one dime in six of eight games since and is averaging 1.5 APG over that stretch.
The Nets may be a fun opponent, but they just traded away their only good center in Jarrett Allen, and DeAndre Jordan is way too slow at this stage of his career to get out to the perimeter and defend Lopez from bombing threes. I expect open threes sometimes and open lanes other times when Jordan or another defender does get out.
We’re projecting Lopez at 3.5 assists, incredibly seven times this posted number. And we only need one. I’ve been playing this prop for two weeks now and profiting. This game has a 237.5 total, highest of the day. We only need Lopez to assist on two of those points. Go get ’em, big guy.