Pacers vs. Bucks NBA Odds & Picks: Bet the Over, Even Without Giannis Antetokounmpo (Monday, March 22)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Malcolm Brogdon.
- The Pacers look to continue their solid run of play against the Bucks on Monday night.
- Since the return of Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon has taken his game to a new level for Indiana.
- Even though Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) is out of this game, Phillip Kall sees value on the over.
Pacers vs. Bucks Odds
|Moneyline||+180 / -220|
|Time||Monday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via DraftKings.|
Indiana broke out of a 5-13 rut to take down the Miami Heat twice over the weekend. Continuing to stack wins will not be easy as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks without any rest.
Making matters worse for the Pacers, Milwaukee seems to have found what made them special the previous two seasons winning 11 of their past 12. While the Bucks win games, they still are not making friends with bettors, covering just three times in their past nine attempts.
On Monday, though, Milwaukee appears likely to be without its two-time reigning MVP. Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as doubtful for the game with an ankle injury.
Indiana playing on short rest and Milwaukee struggling against the spread makes backing either team risky. Fortunately, we can turn to the total instead to find an angle with value.
Let’s look further to see if the over or under will be the way to go.
Since trading away Victor Oladipo, little has gone right for the Pacers. However, the return of Caris LeVert seems to have reinvigorated Indiana.
In the five games with LeVert, the Pacers are 3-2 and with a 115.9 Offensive Rating per NBA Advanced Stats. On their face, these numbers do not seem too impressive but adding context via matchup tells a different story. These five games came against Phoenix, Denver, Brooklyn and Miami, all teams that are likely to make the playoffs.
Saying LeVert caused this uptick seems unusual since he only averages 14.0 points and 37.1% in those games. However, his impact on point guard Malcolm Brogdon has made a huge difference. Since trading Oladipo to the return of LeVert, Brogdon shot 44.2% from the field and 34.9% from 3-point range. With LeVert back, those numbers have risen to 52.6% from the field and 48.6% from 3.
The challenge for the Pacers will be finding ways to score inside. Indiana currently sits second in percentage of field goals from within three feet per Basketball Reference. Unfortunately, the Bucks do an excellent job of forcing teams to struggle in the interior thanks to their two seven-footers in Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez.
With the Bucks holding down the interior, the Pacers will need to turn to their perimeter players more than usual. Malcolm Brogdon’s improved play should make this move more viable than it was in the middle of the year.
The Bucks’ recent hot-streak has helped them climb back in the competition for the top-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With the season’s end rapidly approaching, continuing their run is becoming even more important.
The difference for Milwaukee during their run has been their emphasis on defense. In their last 12 games, the Bucks Defensive Rating of 105.9 ranks third per NBA Advanced Stats.
The Bucks provide a unique attack in the NBA as improving their defense can lead to more scoring. This difference is because Milwaukee looks to attack after defensive stops to utilize The Greek Freaks athleticism.
This defense to offense relationship has been evident in their recent run. Despite their Offensive Rating falling to 113.7, far below their season average of 116.8, their average points scored remains unchanged.
We have also seen glimpses of how potent the Bucks can be when they are firing on all cylinders. In seven of their 12 games, the Bucks have shot at least 35% from the three and scored at least 120 in each game. Against the Pacers, the Bucks should have a golden opportunity to light up the scoreboard as Indiana allows a 37.9% 3-point percentage.
Both teams have shown a tendency to play in higher-scoring games recently, each hitting the over in four of the past five. This game looks set to make it five out of six.
For the Pacers, their offense seems to have hit a stride with Caris LeVert making his way into the lineup. They have done so despite LeVert playing far below his capability. However, his ability to take over some of the ball-handling responsibilities and pressure from Brogdon has made a tremendous difference.
For the Bucks, turning defense into offense has helped them re-establish themselves among the NBA elite. During their run, when they have paired a good shooting night with their defense, the offense has looked unstoppable. Fortunately, the Pacers’ struggles have come from guarding the 3-point line.
This game does carry the added twist that it will be Indiana’s second game of a back-to-back. While back-to-backs are never fun, playing a team built on defense and pace might be the worst case for Indiana.
I expect Milwaukee to control this game from the beginning as Indiana will not have the legs to keep up. However, with such a large spread, a backdoor cover makes me hesitate on backing either team.
Take the over instead of risking the spread.
Pick: Over 228.5 up to 230.5