NBA basketball is always entertaining. But there’s an especially major matchup happening today that all fans should be watching. The East’s top two teams, the 36-13 Milwaukee Bucks and 37-15 Toronto Raptors, will play their fourth and final regular season game against each other in Toronto today (8.05 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT).
Milwaukee leads the season series 2-1. However, when Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard has played, the ledger is 1-1. Both games were very close.
The Bucks enter this game with seven wins in their last eight games, while the Raptors have won nine of their last 12. These are two very good teams on both sides of the ball.
How will this marquee matchup shake out? The Raptors would love a win to even the season series, but the Bucks are rolling right now. We’ll preview this NBA contest and then present you with some smart betting choices as part of our concluding Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors predictions.
Can Serge Ibaka Keep Carrying the Raptors on the Boards?
The Raptors are generally a mediocre, or at least inconsistent, rebounding team. Without center Jonas Valanciunas, the team has taken a dip in that area. It has only been the last four games where they have started to do better consistently.
What’s the biggest reason for the team’s recovery on the boards? Serge Ibaka. The Raptors’ starting center had just five double-figure rebounding games in his 44 contests of the year. Right now, he is on a streak of five straight games of at least 10 rebounds.
Milwaukee is the best team in the NBA at defensive rebounding. If the Raptors are to win, they’ll need Ibaka (along with Pascal Siakam) to create some havoc on the boards to prevent Milwaukee from attacking in transition too much.
Can Toronto Not Run Quite So Many Isolation Plays for Kawhi Leonard?
Leonard is an amazing player. In fact, he might be one of the league’s five best talents. However, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse seems a bit too eager to run isolation plays for Leonard, especially at the end of games.
These plays end with Leonard scoring plenty of the time, but they prevent other of Leonard’s teammates from getting touches and staying in rhythm. In particular, this is likely a factor in a poor shooting season for point guard Kyle Lowry. These isolation plays also do not make the opposing defense expend much effort as a whole, which allows them to have more energy for the other end of the floor.
Toronto has a 13-3 record this season when it assists on at least 64.6 percent of its field goals. Five of those opponents were above .500. When that assist percentage is 51.1 or lower, the Raptors are just 8-6 and have beaten only one team above .500 (the Jazz).
A more balanced offensive approach will be needed to win against a stingy Bucks defense that likes to get out in transition if it has the energy to do so.
Will the Raptors Make the Bucks’ Three-Point Attempts Uncomfortable?
The Bucks’ offensive strategy this season is generally pretty simple. Attack with athletic penetrators like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Eric Bledsoe, and then kick the ball out to the perimeter for a three-point shot if the defense collapses. If they don’t collapse, then Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe can merely continue their penetration.
Milwaukee is much more dangerous when its shooters actually make shots off the drive-and-kick plays. When the team wins, it makes 10.1 catch-and-shoot threes per game on a 37.8 percent success rate. When the Bucks lose, that goes down to 9.0 threes per game on a 29.6 percent success rate.
Pretty much regardless of how well the Raptors rotate on defense, the Bucks are going to hoist a lot of threes. The Raptors need to make a point of closing out well on shooters and anticipating passes so Milwaukee’s outside shots are heavily contested every time.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors Betting Picks & Predictions
The Bucks have been better than the Raptors recently. Also, I think the Raptors missing Jonas Valanciunas to help with rebounding is a big deal. Milwaukee’s offensive flow has been more consistent this season and the Bucks seem to have better team chemistry.
In general, the Bucks have been a much better betting option than the Raptors this season. The Bucks are 27-19-1 against the spread, while the Raptors are just 22-29-1. So the Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors predictions for this preview shape like this:
- The Raptors are a 2.5-point favorite at home with all major online betting companies that accept U.S. citizens. I recommend putting your money on the Bucks +2.5 @ best odds of -105 with Bovada. It is -110 with Intertops, BetOnline and Bookmaker.
- Milwaukee has the length on defense to make Toronto pay for an isolation-heavy offense. Also, I think the Bucks will have no trouble grabbing defensive rebounds against an undersized Toronto frontcourt to jump-start its transition attack. So for the total points spread, the best bet is taking over 229.5pts @ -105 with Bookmaker. BetOnline is -110 for the same points total while Bovada is over 230pts at -105.
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.