Two Eastern Conference powers square off in Milwaukee today as the 1-0 Cleveland Cavaliers visit the 1-0 Milwaukee Bucks in a marquee matchup (7pm ET Friday on ESPN).
Both squads have superstar forwards — the Cavaliers’ LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA, and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetotokounmpo could take his spot soon. The 22-year-old athletic specimen has improved tremendously in the past couple of years.
Other matchups also make this a must-watch game. Cleveland has lots of great veteran offensive players, and Milwaukee has several young two-way players.
How will the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavs play on the road against a rising Bucks squad? Let’s review a few factors that will determine the outcome of the game. Then this preview will make its betting predictions and picks against the contest’s betting lines.
How Seriously Will LeBron James Take the Giannis Antetokounmpo Matchup?
James is selective with the regular season matchups he takes seriously. Since the regular season is so long and opponents are always bringing their “A” game against him, it’s tough for him to go all out against every opponent.
Antetokounmpo posted a monster stat line of 37 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals in a win against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. There’s little question he’ll be motivated to deliver a similar effort against James, who is the NBA’s gold standard at the small forward position.
The two superstars probably won’t guard each other all game, but there’s potential for some back-and-forth interplay between them. Will LeBron be as motivated as Antetokounmpo to bring his best effort?
Do the Bucks Have the Guard Play on Offense to Take Advantage of Cleveland’s Weak Defensive Guards?
The Cavaliers’ main guards are abhorrent on the defense. Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith just don’t bring the tenacity needed to that end of the floor to make things difficult for opponents.
Fortunately for them, Milwaukee doesn’t have a dynamic offensive backcourt. It’s possible Rose and Wade, the starting guards for Cleveland, can be somewhat hidden on Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell and Matthew Dellavedova.
Brogdon, Snell and Dellavedova must be aggressive with their cutting and pick-and-roll play to take advantage. Also, the Bucks would be wise to try and get mismatches so Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton can get the Cavs’ guards on them one on one.
Can Kevin Love Find a More Consistent Role Against Thon Maker, Greg Monroe and John Henson?
Love has one of the most versatile offensive games among NBA big men. He can score inside and outside, and he also passes well.
Now in his fourth season with Cleveland, Love still doesn’t seem like he’s being maximized. He scored 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting with no assists in the Cavs’ opening-night win over Boston, and he hardly touched the ball in the first half.
He seems to have a good matchup today. Maker is inexperienced, Monroe is slow of foot and Henson would prefer to stick near the basket to protect the rim. If Love gets more involved and finds a rhythm, Cleveland’s chances at winning this game will be higher.
Our Preview’s Cavs vs. Bucks Picks & Betting Predictions
These teams are quite evenly-matched, especially since the Cavaliers have won’t have All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas back for a while from his hip injury. Milwaukee, as the up-and-coming Eastern Conference power, will be eager to prove its status, while the Cavs are the bored older brother that may not take the contest seriously.
- The Cavaliers are 2 or 2.5-point favorites on the road, according to all major USA betting sites. I don’t see these teams as very different in strength, especially during the regular season. Bet on the Bucks +2.5pts @ best odds of -108 with BetOnline.
- The bookies have the expected total for this game at 210pts. That is a slightly below-average line, which is curious since both of these teams are a bit better on offense than defense. Bet over 210pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, MyBookie, 5Dimes, Bookmaker or BetOnline.