Pacers vs. Bucks Odds & Picks: Bet on Indiana’s Struggles to Continue
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- In the midst of a bit of a down stretch, the Pacers hope to get a big win over the Bucks on Wednesday.
- After a pair of surprising road losses, the Bucks bounced back with a dominant win over the Trail Blazers on Monday night.
- Matt Trebby breaks down why he's backing the Bucks, even as heavy favorites, at home.
Pacers vs. Bucks Odds
|Moneyline||+310 / -400|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
The Indiana Pacers get an unwelcome matchup on the back end of a back-to-back on Tuesday night.
The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t been the regular-season juggernaut that they were over the past two years, but they still rank toward the top of the NBA both offensively and defensively. Milwaukee has hit some bumps in the road of late, although it remains to be seen whether Indiana can take advantage of coach Mike Budenholzer’s team’s potential weaknesses.
Let’s see who has the edge for bettors in this one:
The Pacers started out the season looking like a real contender in the Eastern Conference. They were 8-4 after a dominant win over Portland on Jan. 14.
Then Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard took a big risk. He got involved in the trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn, trading Victor Oladipo to Houston while receiving Caris LeVert in return from the Nets.
The logic behind the deal was sound. Indiana clearly felt Oladipo was going to leave in free agency after the season and wanted to get something for him. LeVert is under contract for two more seasons after this year at a relatively reasonable rate.
But during the medical evaluations for the trade, an MRI revealed a mass on LeVert’s left kidney. He has since undergone surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. No timetable has been put on his potential return to action this season.
So really, the Pacers lost Oladipo and didn’t really replace him as they thought they would. It was a big blow for Indiana, which was getting 20 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game from Oladipo.
The Pacers entered their game against Memphis on Tuesday night ranked 18th in Offensive Rating in their last eight games and 22nd in Defensive Rating. They have been thoroughly below average.
Naturally, as I was write about the Pacers’ offensive struggles and how they couldn’t shoot well from behind the arc, they went and dropped 135 points on 59.7% shooting against the Grizzlies. While very impressive, it’s safe to assume this will not happen on back-to-back nights. Memphis was on the back end of its own back-to-back and are, well, average.
Most importantly for those of you reading this, Indiana is 3-6 against the spread since the trade.
Milwaukee has lost four of its last seven games, the last two of which were down to their opponents having the best shooting nights of their seasons. Against the Pelicans last Friday, the Bucks were down 23 points at halftime due to hot shooting from New Orleans, which finished 21-of-48 from beyond the arc. Charlotte was 21-of-44 against the Bucks the next night in a 12-point win.
The Bucks entered play on Tuesday night giving up the fourth-most 3-point attempts per game in the NBA at 38.6. Teams are knocking down 39.2% of those shots against Milwaukee this season, a rate that ranks second-highest in the NBA behind the Spurs’ 39.3%.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, the Pacers are not a team that relies heavily on the 3-ball. Indiana entered Tuesday night ranked 20th in the NBA with 32.2% of their points coming from beyond the arc. Then again, New Orleans ranks 26th in that category but still found a way to go off against Milwaukee.
For their defensive struggles, the Bucks keep on scoring. In their last seven games, Milwaukee entered Tuesday night ranked third in the NBA behind the Nets and Jazz in Offensive Rating. The Bucks do rank 23rd in that span in Defensive Rating.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is off to a strong start for his standards, although his 59.3% mark from the free throw line is a minor concern. Khris Middleton looks set for a second straight All-Star Game appearance, averaging 21.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 51.7% from the field, 45.8% from 3-point land and 92.2% from the free throw line. (Those percentages are ridiculous.)
This spread opening at Milwaukee +8.5 initially seemed big, but it’s very appropriate given the Pacers’ struggles and a couple other factors.
While Indiana was able to take its foot off the pedal a bit on Tuesday night against Memphis, Milwaukee has played one game since Saturday, a blowout win over the Trail Blazers. In that game, Antetokounmpo (26 minutes) and Middleton (25 minutes) were rested down the stretch, and Jrue Holiday was the only Bucks played to play at least 30 minutes.
The Bucks’ biggest struggles defensively this season have come via opponents shooting the 3-ball well, something the Pacers don’t do very often. They did go 16-of-29 against the Grizzlies, but again, it’s difficult to see them replicating that on a second straight night.
Also, Milwaukee defended the Pacers’ two best offensive weapons very well last season. In three games against his former team, Malcolm Brogdon averaged 10.3 points, 8.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 34.2% from the field. All-Star forward Damontas Sabonis averaged 15.0 points and 12.8 rebounds in four matchups with Milwaukee, shooting 35.0% from the field.
I’ll take the Bucks with the points here because of the positive matchup and Indiana’s recent struggles. I wouldn’t go above -9, though.
Pick: Bucks -8.5 (up to -9)