Among the huge slate of NBA games Wednesday night is one of the clear mismatches of the season. The 21-3 Milwaukee Bucks are set to host the 6-18 New Orleans Pelicans at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. The Bucks are going for their 16th win in a row, while the Pelicans are aiming to stop their nine-game losing streak.
Here is a preview for Wednesday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Bucks, who are tied for the league’s best record and are 11-1 at home this season. Milwaukee’s offense is tops in the NBA, averaging 120.5 points per game on elite 48.2 percent shooting. The Bucks average the third-most three-pointers per game, hitting 14.2, while averaging more rebounds than anyone in the league as well.
Milwaukee also has a good defense, one that is 10th in points allowed with 107.2. The Bucks have held opponents to a league-low 41.2 percent from the field and are also fifth in blocks per game with 6.1. Overall, the Bucks are second in offensive rating and first in defensive rating, making a strong case as the best team in all of basketball.
For the Pelicans, playing at the league’s fifth-highest pace has resulted in them cracking the top 10 in points per game with 112.8. However, they’re scoring at an efficient rate of 44.9 percent from the field. New Orleans is also a good three-point shooting team, averaging 14.1 threes a night, just behind Milwaukee in that regard, and is solid in the offensive rebounding department.
However, when it comes to defense, New Orleans falls quite short. The Pelicans are next-to-last in points allowed, giving up an average of 119.5 points a night. Opponents are scoring on 47.3 percent shooting, the fifth-highest mark in the league, while New Orleans is allowing 13 threes per game. As a whole, the Pelicans rank 18th in offensive rating but 27th in defensive rating.
Who To Watch
For the Bucks, normally eyes would be on MVP candidate and last year’s winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is in the midst of his best season to date, averaging 30.9 points and 13.2 rebounds per game to rank top five in both.
However, “The Greek Freak” has been ruled out for this one due to right quad tendon soreness. His absence is huge, and one that will put pressure on the Bucks’ other stars, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Middleton is averaging 17.5 points per game after missing a decent chunk of the season in November, while Bledsoe is averaging just under 15 points and six assists a night.
The Pelicans have gotten a breakout season from Brandon Ingram. The fourth-year forward, who came to the Pelicans in this summer’s Anthony Davis trade, has been superb, averaging 24.9 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting. With Antetokounmpo out, Ingram becomes the top-scoring threat in this game.
New Orleans will also have Jrue Holiday in the lineup. The longtime Pelican is averaging just under 20 points and 6.6 assists per game, as he and Ingram will be tasked with outscoring the hottest team in the league with one of the best defenses as well.
Odds And Pick
The Bucks are obvious favorites, listed at -13. However, Antetokounmpo’s absence could affect those odds quite a bit. But even with Milwaukee’s superstar sitting out, it should have no problem beating the Pelicans. The difference in defense is drastic between both clubs, not to mention the differences in rebounding. This will be a fairly high-scoring game, with both teams playing at a rapid pace, but the Bucks should take care of business. I’ll pick the Pelicans +13 to cover, but the Bucks to win their 16th straight.