Lakers at Bucks Picks and NBA Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/28/2013
I never like previewing a game that involves both teams playing the second of a back-to-back, but it’s pretty clear that Lakers at Bucks is the top game on Thursday night and the one that’s most intriguing (it’s another thin NBA Thursday night opposite the NCAA Tournament).
Entering their games Wednesday, the Lakers and Bucks are each eighth in their respective conferences. That’s an especially bad thing for Milwaukee as it means a date with near-invincible Miami in the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks are just 1.5 games behind sliding No. 7 Boston, however, and a playoff date with likely either the Knicks (probably the preference with Amare Stoudemire expected to miss at least the first round) or Pacers. Yeah, if it’s a Bucks-Pacers first round, don’t expect much national media coverage!
The Lakers, meanwhile, are looking less and less likely to move up in the standings as they are 3.5 games behind No. 3 Houston. Now it’s a matter of survival to hang onto No. 8 with the Dallas Mavericks approaching rapidly in the rear-view mirror. Utah is there too, but I really doubt the Jazz are factor. For what it’s worth, the Lakers host Dallas next week in their final meeting of the season. An L.A. win would clinch the season series and a potentially huge tiebreaker.
Lakers at Bucks Betting Story Lines
That the Lakers will make the playoffs is -300 on Sportsbook.ag with “no” at +220. However, the team is going the wrong way entering Wednesday’s game at Minnesota (a must-win) in losing three straight. L.A. had no right losing at Phoenix – even without Kobe Bryant – or Washington at Staples Center. Losing Monday at Golden State in the first of a four-game road trip is acceptable even though Warriors star Stephen Curry was gimpy with a bad ankle and a game-time decision.
Maybe Pau Gasol really is the problem. In two games since returning from a serious foot injury, Gasol has just 11 points on 5-for-18 from the field. The news gets worse: Metta World Peace tore his meniscus in his left knee and will miss at least six weeks – which means likely through the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers aren’t especially good on defense as it is, and about the only thing World Peace can do at an elite level is defend. He was averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
Coach Mike D’Antoni can do two things to replace World Peach in the starting five. He could start Jodie Meeks at shooting guard and slide Kobe Bryant to small forward, which seems the most likely option. Or he can turn to big man Earl Clark and keep Kobe at the No. 2. The 6-foot-10 Clark has really struggled this month after a surprisingly good start to the season (he replaced Gasol in the starting lineup for a while even when Gasol was healthy) and has not played much in the two games since Gasol returned.
The Bucks are blowing their chance at passing Boston thanks to a three-game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game at Philadelphia. There was some good news in Sunday’s home loss to Atlanta as underrated forward Ersan Ilyasova was back in the lineup after missing three games with a hip injury. He had 19 points and 10 boards in the loss and is averaging 18.6 points and 10.6 boards this month. The Bucks mostly stink on defense, other than shot-blocker Larry Sanders, but were expecting the return of their best wing/perimeter defender in forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from a toe injury on Wednesday. The team was 2-6 in the eight games he missed.
Thursday’s game starts a big four-game homestand for Milwaukee. If the Bucks don’t go 4-0 or 3-1, they can probably forget about passing Boston because six of Milwaukee’s final eight games are on the road. One of those is April 9 in Miami.
These teams met Jan. 15 in L.A., and the Lakers won, 104-88, as Kobe and Dwight Howard each had 31 points. Gasol missed the game. Monta Ellis scored 17 points for the Bucks, who were playing just their fifth game under interim coach Jim Boylan. Kobe also helped hold Brandon Jennings to 12 points on 4-for-14 from the field.
Lakers at Bucks NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, the Bucks opened as one-point favorites with the total at 208. All trends entering Wednesday: The Lakers are 29-41-1 ATS (13-22-1 on road) and 36-34-1 “over/under” (20-16 on road). The Bucks are 31-38 ATS (12-23 at home) and 33-34-2 O/U (18-16-1 at home).
The Lakers 2-5 in their past seven in the second of a back-to-back. LA is 1-4 ATS in its past five road games against a team with a winning home record. The Bucks are 2-6 ATS in their past eight in the second of a back-to-back. Milwaukee has covered just two of its past 11 at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The over is 6-1 in the Lakers’ past seven Thursday games. The over is 4-1 in the past five in Milwaukee. The Lakers are 1-5 ATS in their past six at the Bucks.
Lakers at Bucks Picks and Betting Predictions
Clearly the second half of a back-to-back usually favors the home team. But the Lakers actually have much less distance to travel from Minneapolis than Milwaukee does from Philly. The Lakers have won seven of the past 10 in this series overall as well as seven of the last 10 in Brew Town. I always lean toward the team with a greater sense of urgency if there are no other overriding factors. That’s L.A. here (especially if it loses Wednesday) because the Bucks are going to the playoffs regardless. Howard should dominate the Bucks down low again (he also had 16 boards and four blocks in the first meeting), so take the Lakers and the over.
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