Knicks vs. Bucks NBA Odds & Picks: Can Milwaukee Cover the Double-Digit Spread? (Thursday, March 11)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks host the Knicks with the Milwaukee star fresh off his All-Star MVP.
- New York is a double-digit underdog in this matchup against one of the NBA's top teams.
- Read below to find out why Brandon Anderson thinks the Knicks are the smart play as an underdog.
Knicks vs. Bucks Odds
|Moneyline||+440 / -610|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
No one would have believed you three months ago if you said the Milwaukee Bucks would have only three more wins than the New York Knicks heading into the All-Star Break. They would’ve asked if Giannis Antetokounmpo decided to sit the season out, or if he got traded to New York somehow.
None of that is the case, though. Antetokounmpo is still in Milwaukee and playing quite well — but so are the Knicks. New York hit the break at 19-18 and is pushing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tom Thibodeau has these Knicks playing great defense, and Julius Randle just played in his first All-Star Game.
The Bucks have been good as usual, but not quite great. Yet they are double-digit favorites as they look to start the second half of the season with a win. Can Thibs and the Knicks slow them down?
New York Knicks
The numbers so far suggest that New York’s 19-18 record is no fluke. New York ranks 12th in the NBA in Net Rating at +0.5 per Basketball Reference, and they’re doing it almost exclusively on defense. That’s how Thibodeau teams roll, and it’s how they always will.
New York doesn’t try to force many turnovers or do anything fancy. They just play hard at every moment and force opponents into difficult shots. The Knicks lead the league in defensive effective field goal percentage at just 50.6%.
New York ranks sixth in 2-point percentage allowed and ranks first in the NBA in 3-point percentage allowed at just 33.2%. The Knicks also rank first in the NBA in transition defense, and they’re a good rebounding team that slows the pace down and grinds the game out.
Simply put, New York makes life difficult and miserable for the opponent. There are no easy baskets. New York gets back on defense and gets set up, and the slow pace favors the defensive setup too. The Knicks aren’t letting opponents get to the easiest shots on the court, and right now, that’s been enough to keep New York afloat.
And thank God for the defense, because the offense is still pretty miserable. New York ranks second in Defensive Efficiency but just 23rd on offense. The Knicks hit below 50% of their shots inside the arc, third worst in the league, and they take the second-fewest 3s in the NBA.
Interestingly, Milwaukee’s traditional drop coverage could benefit New York’s offense tonight since the Bucks push opponents to shoot more 3s and the Knicks actually rank 12th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, despite their low attempt total.
New York won’t be at full strength coming out of the break. Derrick Rose is out and Taj Gibson is questionable, while Mitchell Robinson is still sidelined after hand surgery. Even so, Randle and the rest of the team are there and much more rested than usual, considering Thibodeau’s minutes loads. With the time away, they should be ready to push Milwaukee all the way.
The Bucks are probably feeling pretty grateful for the All-Star break. Milwaukee had a very weird February. The Bucks won their first five games of the month, then lost five in a row, then rebounded to win the last five in February, becoming the first NBA team in history to go W5-L5-W5 all in the same month.
Jrue Holiday missed most of February in health protocol and played limited minutes in his three-game return before the break. Khris Middleton had a rough February in Holiday’s absence and fell out of a likely All-Star berth.
Meanwhile, without those two starring, Antetokounmpo turned back into the world-beating two-time MVP. Over his past 12 games, he is averaging 32.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists, with 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks per game to boot.
The break looks like a chance for the Bucks to reset. While Antetokounmpo was busy winning All-Star Game MVP, Middleton and Holiday got some much needed time off, and now the Bucks should be healthy and ready to go for the second half. Even with that rough February stretch, the Bucks sit at 22-14 on the season, third in Net Rating at +6.2 per Basketball Reference.
Milwaukee excels at doing the little things under Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks don’t turn the ball over or gamble for their own turnovers, and they rarely foul. They are a great rebounding team, and they’re lethal in transition thanks to Giannis.
The Bucks had the league’s best offense over the first quarter of the season. They’ve dropped to fifth in Offensive Efficiency, with their shooting numbers starting to fall back to earth.
Still, Milwaukee ranks fifth in the NBA in 3s and fourth in 3-point percentage, hitting almost 39% on the season. The Bucks have won this season by running in transition and gunning from deep, and by letting their three stars lead the way. Those stars should be healthy and ready to go.
Thibodeau and the Knicks like to make things difficult on the opponent, and I expect them to do that against the Bucks. The Knicks have the right mix of strengths to offset some of the things Milwaukee does best.
New York leads the league in transition and 3-point defense, and those are the exact things the Bucks do best to run up the score. Milwaukee’s defense may also push New York to accidentally do some of the few things they do better.
I also think the pace and style of this game along with the week off will push this game toward ugly mode, and that favors the Knicks too. A slower, lower scoring game always favors the underdog, and that’s just how Thibs likes things.
I’m grabbing the Knicks +10.5 to cover and make this one interesting. And if the Knicks are really that close, I can’t help but nibble just a little with a small portion of my bet on the +475 moneyline.
That implies a 17% chance of a New York victory, and if this is close enough late for New York to cover, the Knicks could have a chance to steal a win.
I’ll play the Knicks down to +10 and look for New York to keep this to single digits.
Pick: Knicks +10.5 | Knicks +475 ML