Trail Blazers vs. Bucks NBA Odds & Picks: Back Portland’s 3-Point Attack as Road Dogs
Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard.
- The Blazers look to follow up on their last-second win on Saturday night against the Bucks.
- Portland lives and dies by the 3-pointer on offense, and the Bucks have been dying by the 3-ball defensively.
- Brandon Anderson sees value on the road dog on Monday night, and he explains why he's backing the Blazers.
Trail Blazers vs. Bucks Odds
|Trail Blazers Odds||+10|
|Moneyline||+410 / -550|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds as of Sunday night and via FanDuel.|
The Blazers and Bucks meet Monday night in a game featuring two of the league’s top-10 superstars.
Damian Lillard and the Blazers are 10-8, and they’re grinding. Portland is missing C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic and trying to stay afloat without two of its top-three players.
The Bucks are just 11-8 themselves after a bit of a recent swoon. Giannis Antetokounmpo is well off his usual MVP pace and doesn’t even feel like he’s part of that conversation right now, and Milwaukee is coming off surprising back-to-back losses over the weekend to the Pelicans and Hornets.
Every win matters in an odd season like this. The Bucks are big favorites, but can the shorthanded Blazers hang tough and push Milwaukee all the way?
Portland Trail Blazers
It’s really quite remarkable that Portland has a winning record right now, considering how much it feels like the Blazers have been struggling.
McCollum was a big reason for the wins Portland did get before a foot injury sidelined him. Nurkic was supposed to be a big addition but never looked healthy and is out again. The Blazers revamped the team around those two and Lillard over the offseason, and the new additions have not gone well.
Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. were supposed to add elite defense at the forward position but have not done enough to cover the rest of the Blazers’ sins, and Portland’s defense has been miserable. They ranked second last in Defensive Efficiency entering play on Sunday.
Portland has a poor defensive shot profile and simply isn’t making it hard on the opponent. And now Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony are playing more minutes than ever, which doesn’t exactly help things.
Portland is only hanging in as well as it has because of the offense, and that’s mostly dependent on a ton of 3-pointers. The Blazers rank dead last in assists per game as a team and are not great inside the arc, but they’re near the top of the league in 3-pointers attempted and make them at a pretty good clip.
Lillard is averaging nearly 30 points per game now, and as the Blazers 3-pointers go, so goes Portland many nights.
We’ll see whether Covington or Jones is a go on Monday. Covington returned from two games away on Saturday, but Jones missed that one with a foot injury.
Portland is already super shorthanded, and the Blazers bench has certainly not helped the cause. If they do miss one or both forwards again, that only puts more of the load on Lillard.
The Bucks sit at 11-8, about the same record as the Blazers, but Milwaukee has the much stronger overall profile. The Bucks still lead the league in Offensive Efficiency, having been a knockdown shooting team all season that ranks in the top five from both inside and beyond the arc.
The Bucks don’t turn it over and score loads of points in transition. They don’t get to the line or score well when they do, but just about every other offensive metric has been great or elite.
The Bucks’ defense has not been as reliable. It started out rough, rounded into better form and then faded again over the past couple weeks. The Bucks rank around the middle of the league defensively. They’re a terrific rebounding team, but it looks like last year’s historically elite defensive team is dead and gone at this point.
The profile is still about the same. The Bucks are trying to force the opponent to take a lot of 3-pointers. Right now, opponents are obliging and crushing them. Milwaukee has allowed the fourth most 3-point attempts, and opponents are hitting them at a ridiculous 39.5%, which is second highest in the league.
History tells us that percentage is likely just bad luck and should regress to the mean over time, but this is the same story we’ve seen with this Bucks team. We’ve seen Milwaukee eliminated two straight playoffs when an opponent gets hot behind the arc for a week.
The Bucks have also gotten less from their bench this season. That was always going to be the case with as much as Milwaukee gave up in the Jrue Holiday trade.
Holiday, Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton have been great, but there’s just not much else on this roster. Donte DiVincenzo is an every-night starter now. Bobby Portis has been decent off the bench, but D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes have really struggled, and Milwaukee’s starters are playing more minutes. Neither team will have a great bench effort here.
Trail Blazers-Bucks Pick
Both of these teams are far better offensively than defensively. Milwaukee ranks second in the NBA at almost 120 points per game as a team, and both teams are seeing more than 230 combined points in an average game of theirs right now.
This game projects as one that could be super unpredictable because of the specific matchup of Portland’s heavy 3-point offense vs. Milwaukee’s defense asking the opponent to keep on shooting from beyond the arc.
The Blazers are going to take a ton of 3-point shots in this game. That’s the sort of opponent that can typically give Milwaukee problems. If the shots fall, the Bucks just don’t have much of an adjustment.
Of course, if they don’t fall, the Blazers could get blown out. They don’t have much of a Plan B either.
The books are expecting plenty of scoring, setting the total at 235. With both teams playing fast, it’s easy to see an over there. But it’s also unpredictable because Portland’s shooters may go cold.
Milwaukee’s offense shouldn’t disappear. When you pit the league’s No. 1 offense against its second to worst defense, that’s probably not going to go very well. That could make a Milwaukee team over an attractive play, but that’s a pretty high line, and a high-scoring Bucks game could see them playing their poor bench in a blowout in the fourth quarter.
That’s why I think a Portland cover is the best play here. Even if Milwaukee does win, and perhaps even comfortably, a backdoor cover will always be in play against Portland’s shooters and high-scoring offense. The Bucks have allowed 240 points in their last two games to teams worse than the Blazers, and they’ve now allowed 115 or more points 10 times. Milwaukee is 2-4 in its last six games, and the Bucks have only covered this 10-point spread in two of its last 11 games.
The Blazers are fighting hard even without McCollum and Nurkic. Remember, they’ve played in four straight one-score games. I’m taking the Blazers to keep this close against a Milwaukee squad that looks a bit lost right now, and given the upside of the Blazers offense if the threes start to fall, I’m compelled to sprinkle a small part of my wager on that +410 moneyline too. If the Blazers do end up covering, they may have a chance to steal a win late.
Pick: Blazers -10, sprinkle a bit on +410 ML