The NBA’s two recent Most Valuable Player award winners do battle in Orlando today as James Harden’s Houston Rockets compete against Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks (8:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC).
These teams haven’t faced each other since their first games of the season last October, when the Bucks downed the Rockets 117-111. In that game, Giannis Antetokounmpo totaled 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
The 41-24 Rockets’ roster has changed considerably since then, altering to a super small-ball approach. The 54-12 Bucks have kept their team very similar and have dominated opponents with excellent three-point shooting, rim protection and transition play throughout the campaign.
USAbetting asks some very important questions in this preview before offering up our betting picks as part of our Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets predictions.
Will Fatigue Impact Rockets?
Fatigue could end up playing a huge factor in this game. After a long layoff from legitimate NBA action, the Rockets won a fast-paced overtime contest against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday by a score of 153-149. All five of Houston’s starters played at least 40 minutes, with four of them above 43 minutes. Head coach Mike D’Antoni likes keeping his rotation short, and he did so against Dallas by playing only eight players.
You have to wonder if the Rockets might carry a little bit of fatigue into today’s Sunday contest, especially relative to the Bucks. Milwaukee also won a close contest on Friday, beating the Boston Celtics 119-112, but no one on the team played more than 33 minutes.
If fatigue is going to impact one of the teams in this game, it is going to be the Rockets. Milwaukee will attempt to make this a faster-paced contest, so Houston will need to be very intentional about not making ill-advised passes and drives on offense and getting back quickly on defense.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo Get Small-Ball Rockets Into Early Foul Trouble?
Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in fouls drawn per game. Despite ranking just No. 71 in the NBA in minutes per game (30.9), other teams foul the Bucks superstar a whopping 8.2 times per game.
It is honestly not a bad idea for opponents to hack Giannis frequently. He is a shaky free-throw shooter (63.2 percent this season), and if the opponent doesn’t foul him, he is basically an automatic finisher at the rim due to his length, strength and explosive leaping ability.
The Rockets may be in a tough spot when defending Antetokounmpo in this game. No one in Houston’s starting lineup stands taller than the 6’7” Robert Covington, and Antetokounmpo is 6’11” with extremely long arms and excellent lower and upper-body strength. The Rockets also do not have a very deep roster, especially with key wing Eric Gordon sidelined with an ankle injury.
If Antetokounmpo fights hard for position down low and attacks the rim with ferocity from the opening tip, Rockets frontcourt players such as Danuel House, Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker may be at risk for early foul trouble. That would be problematic for Houston’s chances at containing Giannis throughout the contest.
Can Danuel House Continue to Play With Fire in Starting Lineup?
Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni made a curious statement last week regarding House’s role with the team. When asked why House wasn’t a starter in the scrimmage games for Houston, he responded that House is “not as good as the other five guys.” While the statement might be true, it was odd for a coach to be so publicly frank about the quality of a player.
However, House stepped in to replace Eric Gordon in the starting lineup on Friday due to Gordon’s ankle injury. He looked to be playing with some extra energy, scoring 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting from three-point range to go with five rebounds and two steals.
Prior to the season suspension, House had connected on just eight of his 36 three-point attempts (22.2 percent) in his final eight games. He looked much more confident on Friday, but it’s too soon to tell if this version of House is just a temporary thing or the new normal.
Milwaukee is an elite defensive team that is very willing to let role players who aren’t known for their shooting take shots from the outside. House could be one player the Bucks choose to leave open, so he needs to keep firing away without worrying about missing.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets Predictions & Betting Picks Conclusion
The Bucks are much better equipped to cover the Rockets’ best players (James Harden and Russell Westbrook) than the Rockets are to cover the Bucks’ best players (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton).
Even though both teams have had plenty of time to rest before the season restarted, I do think fatigue will still play a role. I expect the Bucks’ spaced-out offense to cause a lot of problems for Houston’s defense, especially at the end of long stretches without a timeout or substitution. So, with that in our thoughts, these are the Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets predictions with betting picks for this preview:
- Milwaukee is a bit of a bookies’ favorite in this game, as most of the top and trusted USA online betting sites have the squad favored by 4 or 4.5 points over Houston. I strongly advise picking the Bucks -4pts @ -110 with 5Dimes or Intertops.
- I expect a relatively high-scoring game, considering the fact that the Rockets don’t have a good player to match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s scoring. However, Houston will attempt to slow this game down a bit. The over/under for this game is super high, at 242 or 242.5 points with all major sportsbooks. I think that’s awfully high, so I recommend betting the under 242.5pts @ -110 with 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.