The Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Friday night. Unfortunately, the Thunder will have back-to-back games while the Bucks haven’t played since Tuesday night.
The Bucks are No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and have the best record in the NBA (50-8). Having already clinched a playoff berth, they now host the fifth-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. With the whole team at full-strength, it’s hard to envision a team coming into Milwaukee to beat the Bucks, especially considering they’re 26-3 record at home.
Oklahoma City sits as the fifth-seed in the West, with Utah and Dallas trailing close behind. If they’re able to pull off a statement win against the Bucks, it can widen their lead and further solidify their position.
The Thunder come in as 10.5-point underdogs, and although they likely won’t beat the Bucks, the real question is, can they cover?
Thunder looking for upset win
Oklahoma City seems to be the team flying under the radar in the Western Conference. The efforts of Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are paying off big; now they have the chance to pull off a huge upset against the No. 1 ranked Milwaukee Bucks.
Although it won’t be an easy feat, the Thunder have pulled off upsets before, most recently against the Denver Nuggets.
Unfortunately, playing back-to-back nights could prove problematic against Milwaukee considering the Bucks will have two days of rest and don’t have to travel. Playing the Bucks on a full night’s rest is tough enough; playing them on back-to-back nights on the road is nearly impossible.
The Thunder will have to rely on their 10th-ranked defense if they plan on slowing down Giannis and the Bucks. The player tasked with this challenge will be Danilo Gallinari, who didn’t fare well against Giannis the last time these two played. What’s more important about that last meeting, though, is the Thunder covered.
Bucks looking to extend streak to five straight
Not only do the Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the league, but they also average the highest points-per-game and the highest rebounds-per-game. Overall, on paper, there isn’t a team that can beat the Bucks. However, they have had some uncharacteristic losses before, and Oklahoma City has gotten close to beating them before.
It’s no secret that stopping Giannis is what Oklahoma City will focus on; however, that doesn’t guarantee them a win. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are two guys that can step up on offense when Giannis is having a slow night.
Milwaukee, however, will have to focus on slowing down the Paul/Gilgeous-Alexander duo. The Bucks have one of the best defenses in the league as well, only allowing 107.6 points per game.
The Bucks have been pretty decent against the spread going 34-24 with a 17-12 ATS record at home. The last time these two played each other, the Bucks were unable to cover the nine-point spread. A trend to note is that the Bucks are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games.
Pick and Prediction
The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to play back-to-back nights and travel from Oklahoma up to Milwaukee. That quick of a turnaround versus the league’s best teams doesn’t create a good matchup for anyone. Although the Thunder have played well lately and have a great record against the spread on the road, it’s the scheduling in this one that makes me lean away from them.
The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, have been on a tear recently winning four-straight games and Giannis’ eyes set on the NBA Finals. With a couple of days of rest and not having to travel, I have to take the home team in this one, Milwaukee -10.5.