The 9-8 Milwaukee Bucks travel to face the 8-11 Utah Jazz today (9 p.m. ET on TNT). Despite them being a couple of middling teams, this should be an exciting and hard-fought NBA clash.
Both squads were expected to be slightly above-average outfits this year, but each of them have disappointed slightly. Milwaukee’s solid record belies its inconsistency, and the Jazz are just a bad offensive basketball team. These teams do have reasons for their struggles (mainly injuries), but both will obviously still be looking for a win tonight.
What factors will swing the contest? This preview will examine what those are before settling on our picks and betting predictions for this NBA game.
Injury Status of Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson
Both teams have had tough luck with injuries this year. The Jazz are without Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson and Dante Exum until the beginning of December at least. Milwaukee is without key bench pieces Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic, as well as young forward Jabari Parker, who tore his ACL at the end of last season.
However, two other players for Milwaukee are still just probable for the contest: Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has a sore knee, and John Henson, who just underwent a procedure on his eye. Both of them missed the Bucks’ most recent game against the Phoenix Suns.
Antetokounmpo is obviously the more important player here. He is a legit MVP candidate, and the Bucks’ success hinges very dramatically on his performance. Henson isn’t as vital, but the lanky center being out or limited decimates an already thin frontcourt rotation.
It is up to you to determine how conservative the Bucks will be with their approach on two of their key contributors tonight.
Which Aggressive Defense Will Force More Turnovers?
The Bucks and Jazz both like to pressure the ball and defense and get their hands on a lot of balls, even if it means gambling on occasion. These squads are third and second in opponent turnover percentage, respectively.
Also, neither team has a potent half-court offense, which helps explain why they both take so many risks on defense and aim for fast-break points. In this game, if one team can score in transition, that means it can force the opponent to take the ball out and set up its half-court offense, which is much less dangerous than its fast-break offense.
Both teams average at least two additional steals per game in wins compared to losses. The team that wins the steal and turnover battles will win this game, in all likelihood. Neither squad will score enough with the other defense set up.
Can Jazz Feature Derrick Favors Prominently in Offensive Gameplan?
Favors remains one of the NBA’s more underrated big men. He scores well inside and from the mid-range area and does a solid job protecting the paint on defense.
However, the Jazz don’t always use him much on offense. In Utah’s wins, Favors puts up 16 points per game on a 65.5 true shooting percentage. Those numbers drop to 9.7 points per game on a 50.8 true shooting percentage in losses.
A big reason for those statistics is that Favors just plays better against worse teams that have worse big men, but it’s also on the Jazz for not keeping him more involved all the time. Milwaukee is definitely not a team known for its strong big men, especially if John Henson is out or limited, so the stage is set for a nice performance from Favors.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks at Utah Jazz Picks & Betting Predictions
The Bucks have their injury concerns, their two main bench players are already out and recently-acquired starting point guard Eric Bledsoe is still finding his role in Milwaukee. Sure, the Jazz do have their best player (Rudy Gobert) out, but they’ve been much better at home than on the road this season.
Milwaukee is a better team right now by a slim margin, but its injury concerns and Utah being at home should make this game a toss-up if betting straight up with the American sportsbooks.
- The Bucks are a 1.5-point favorite, so this preview recommends betting on the Jazz to cover. Find your best odds of Jazz +1.5 @ -110 with either 5Dimes, Bookmaker, MyBookie or BetOnline.
- These two teams play a very slow pace, often because they play good transition defense and take a long time to find a decent shot in their below-average half-court offenses. I don’t see either team forcing many turnovers on each other or scoring a bunch on the fast break. Feel good about taking the under 199.5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker or BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.