Nuggets vs Bucks Prediction, Pick Tonight
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Here's everything you need to know about Nuggets vs. Bucks on Monday, Feb. 12 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.
Despite a 2-5 start under new head coach Doc Rivers, the Milwaukee Bucks have good reasons to remain optimistic as it finally looks like they're starting to regain their defensive identity. According to NBA.com, the Bucks have been allowing 114.1 points per game since Rivers arrived, compared to 120.1 points under the previous coaching regime.
Rivers' first game with the Bucks resulted in a 113-107 road defeat to the Nuggets, and he'll hope to avenge that loss with the two teams set to meet in Milwaukee.
As for the Nuggets, they're coming off a 135-106 loss to Sacramento—the most points they've allowed all season. Denver uncharacteristically turned the ball over 21 times (season average is 12.6), resulting in 37 points for Sacramento. And after not playing since Friday, the Nuggets have had ample time to stew over their loss.
As a result, I'd expect a much better effort from the Nuggets defensively, which could lead to a lower-scoring game than the experts think on Monday night. Let's get to our Nuggets vs. Bucks prediction and pick.
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Nuggets vs. Bucks Prediction
Pick: Under 234.5 (-125)
The Nuggets played incredibly fast against the Kings, which is why I think they struggled to control the game. Per TeamRankings, Denver had 106 possessions against Sacramento compared to a league-low season average of 99.7 possessions.
Even when the Nuggets are on the road, they've generally been able to dictate the game's pace. Denver averages 99.6 possessions on the highway vs. 99.9 at home.
Thus, I would classify the Kings' game as more of a blip than anything else.
But the Nuggets are much more than a slow-paced team. They can also defend. Denver ranks in the top half of the league in efficiency (13th), allowing 111.3 points per 100 possessions.
Much of the Nuggets' success comes from their ability to defend the perimeter. Denver ranks second overall in opponent 3-point attempts (31.2 per game) and 3-point field goals (11.4 per game).
When you combine their pace of play with perimeter defense, it's no wonder the Nuggets lead the league with a 33-20 mark to the under.
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Although the numbers suggest a contrasting preference in style of play between the two teams, Rivers' arrival could signal yet another change. Milwaukee sits fourth in the NBA.com's pace metric (102.15), but under Rivers, it drops to 14th with a 99.21 value.
We already discussed the Bucks allowing fewer points since Rivers took over the coaching duties. Much of that occurred even before Milwaukee acquired a defensive irritant in Patrick Beverley.
The Bucks landed Beverley in a trade with the 76ers at the deadline, and he's already beginning to make his mark with his new teammates.
According to ESPN.com's Jamal Collier, Beverley implored the younger players on the team to sit in the front row during the team's film session. Beverley had only joined up with the Bucks for less than 24 hours.
Then, during a timeout in his first game with the Bucks, Beverley grabbed a clipboard to illustrate the team's defensive assignments.
After scoring six points in 12 minutes of a 120-84 victory over the Hornets, Beverley told reporters in the postgame press conference that he had no intention of changing who he was.
"The way I go about things, I'm not going to make everyone happy…" Beverley said. "I hold myself to a high standard, and I expect everyone else to do the same."
Bucks guard Damian Lillard also recognized a change in the team with Beverley on board. "He brought energy. He brought edge and just experience…" Lillard said. "Defensively in the huddle, he knows who he is, he knows what he brings to a team, and he's not shy about it. You heard his voice the moment he walked in."
Even if Beverley doesn't play a ton of minutes with the Bucks, his mere presence should help foster a sense of accountability and defensive pride among the players.
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Nuggets vs. Bucks Pick, Odds
While we're often used to the Nuggets playing at a slower pace, the Bucks look like they're also content to slow things down under Rivers. Thus, this could be the perfect combination for a play on the under, and we haven't even factored in Milwaukee's recent defensive improvement and its acquisition of Beverley.
There's also a potential bounce-back spot for the Nuggets after a poor defensive performance against the Kings.
This total opened at 234, yet, we've already seen it bet down to 232.5 at some sportsbooks. However, BetMGM has the best price on the board at 233.5, and I wouldn't mind adding a little insurance by playing the under with an alternate total of 234.5 that's slightly juiced to -125.