Free NBA Picks: Bucks at Thunder Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/10/2014
There are mismatches and then there are mismatches. You won't see maybe but a handful bigger than Saturday night's matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks, the only team in the NBA still yet to get double-digit wins, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. To make it even more lopsided, the Bucks had to travel on Friday night after hosting Chicago. The Thunder have been off since Thursday.
Actually, every small-market team like Milwaukee tries to emulate the Thunder. The key is of course nailing those high draft picks, which Oklahoma City did with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. You also have to unearth a few gems as the Thunder did with Serge Ibaka and appear to have done with young backup guard Reggie Jackson. The Bucks had been stuck in NBA purgatory forever, but it finally feels like the team has given up on trying to become an eighth seed in the playoffs only to get knocked out with ease. Team owner Herb Kohl is looking to get a new arena built in Milwaukee, and continued mediocrity won't exactly rally support. Landing a star at the top of the 2014 draft could be a boon to keeping the team in the city. You know Kansas City and especially Seattle are lurking to snap up any club that might want to move.
Bucks at Thunder Betting Story Lines
Milwaukee does have a few nice pieces in big men Larry Sanders and John Henson and rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. His nickname the "Greek Freak" is perfect because the guy is an athletic freak -- plus you know the beat writers around the team don't really want to type that last name more than once in game stories if they can help it. Would break spellcheck. The team seems to have finally smartened up and is playing him heavy minutes. In the past 10 games, the NBA's youngest starter is averaging 31.1 minutes a game. His numbers don't scream future star at 8.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in those 10, but he'll make a play or two in a game that makes you go "wow!"
The Bucks struggle to score, averaging 92.4 points per game. They have hit triple-digits just once in the past six and have lost five of those. They've been held under 90 in two of the past three and were blown out 101-80 at home by Golden State on Tuesday. The team hasn't had Henson since Dec. 27, but he was expected to play Friday. He's averaging 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds this season. There's really no reason for the Bucks to be one of the league's worst rebounding teams with Henson and Larry Sanders (6.9 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game), although Sanders has regressed a bit this season and missed a chunk of time due to injury.
Oklahoma City is in a mini-slump, having dropped two straight and four of six. The Thunder were held to 88 points in a 13-point loss in Denver on Thursday night. Kevin Durant had 30 points, his 19th 30-point game this season. He got no help, with the other four starters combining for 31 points. The Thunder are starting to clearly miss the injured Westbrook. Jeremy Lamb was supposed to fill the Harden/Kevin Martin role this year. He was 1-for-12 against Denver and has been in single-digits four of the past five games. He's shooting .300 from the field in that stretch. Expect the Thunder to be heavily involved in trying to sign free agent Andrew Bynum. Kendrick Perkins is a black hole at center offensively for OKC, so even 20 minutes a night of a half-interested Bynum would be an upgrade. Good lucking getting Bynum away from contenders in slightly more fun cities than Oklahoma City, however.
Bucks at Thunder NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Oklahoma City opened as a 13-point favorite with a total of 196.5. All Bucks trends entering Friday: They are 12-22 ATS (8-10 on road) and 18-16 “over/under” (11-7 on road). The Thunder are 19-17 ATS (9-9 at home) and 19-17 O/U (9-9 at home). The Bucks are 2-9 ATS in their past 11 Saturday games. OKC is 11-2 ATS in its past 13 on Saturday. The Thunder have covered just two of their past seven against the East. The over is 4-0 in Milwaukee's past four Saturday games. The over is 5-2 in OKC's past seven at home against a team with a losing road record. The road team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings.
Free NBA Picks: Bucks at Thunder Betting Predictions
In the past few seasons, the Thunder have been terrific after a loss. They are 5-3 this year after one and 37-10 since the start of the 2011-12 season, the second best mark in the NBA. OKC is also 10-2 against the East this year. Believe it or not, the Bucks are 3-1 in Oklahoma City since the team moved there.
Back on Nov. 16 in Milwaukee, the Thunder were 10.5-point favorites and beat the Bucks 92-79. Ibaka was a monster with 15 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks. Westbrook had 26 and Durant 24. The game was close throughout. O.J. Mayo led Milwaukee with 22. Ersan Ilyasova, Caron Butler and Brandon Knight all missed that game.
There's rarely going to be a time that I will recommend giving 13 points, and this isn't one of them. I am hoping the Greek Freak gets to guard Durant at times as that would be fascinating to watch, although I'm sure the rookie isn't ready to check the NBA's leading scorer much yet. So even with the Bucks on the second of a back-to-back, I think they can cover. Take the over.
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