A superstar matchup of point forwards will take center stage today as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo go toe to toe in Milwaukee. Their respective teams, the 23-8 Cleveland Cavaliers and 15-13 Milwaukee Bucks, will be looking to improve their spots in the Eastern Conference playoff standings (8 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBATV).
This will be the third meeting of the season for these Central Division rivals. Cleveland won each of the first two, and that was even before it started actually playing well on a consistent basis. The Cavs are currently in a stretch of 17 wins in 18 games.
Milwaukee has struggled some as of late. The Bucks have lost three games in a row and haven’t kept their opponent under 100 points in any of their eight December games.
Cleveland is the favorite with the America-facing sportsbooks in this contest, but the Bucks’ home-court advantage and other factors can affect this game. Let’s break down some of those factors and offer predictions and picks on the contest’s two main betting lines.
Can the Bucks Prioritize Ball Movement?
While the Cavs have won a lot of games recently, they are still not a great defensive team. With a lot of old, slow or lazy personnel, they just don’t have the right roster to be a formidable stopping unit. Think about it — Kevin Love, Jose Calderon, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye all play in the rotation for this squad.
Teams that push the ball up court with the pass and whip the ball around in the half court have more success against the Cavs. Cleveland would rather guard isolations and post-ups than plays that involve more ball and player movement.
The Bucks, unfortunately, play a style that is helpful for the Cavs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton all like to get their own shots, which can sometimes hinder ball movement. Milwaukee assists on just 56.5 percent of its made field goals, which ranks 21st in the NBA. They need to break free from that style in today’s NBA game.
Can the Bucks Find an Answer for Kevin Love’s Inside-Out Offensive Game?
LeBron James has gotten most of the credit for the Cavs’ strong start to the season, especially their recent stretch of 17 wins in 18 games. That is understandable, since he’s putting up 27.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game on great efficiency.
However, Kevin Love has been awesome. He has averaged 20.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and just one turnover in a mere 29 minutes per contest in January. His three-point shot has been particularly deadly as of late.
Milwaukee has John Henson and Thon Maker at center, who are both lanky paint patrollers. Love’s strength inside could be an issue for them, and his ability to stretch the floor could be especially tough for Henson to cover.
Will Malcolm Brogdon Have a Big Game Off the Bucks’ Bench?
The biggest mismatch between the Cavs and Bucks is between the benches. Cleveland has the likes of Dwyane Wade, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Kyle Korver leading its reserves. Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s top are Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, Rashad Vaughn and DeAndre Liggins.
Obviously, there’s a huge difference in experience and overall impact between those groups, with the edge going to Cleveland. However, the Bucks’ Brogdon could be the best overall player among all the reserves.
The reigning Rookie of the Year has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 12 games. He’s just a consistent, solid player on both ends of the floor.
Milwaukee needs more than a decent 12-point outing from its sixth man in this contest, though. Brogdon will need to be the clear top reserve in this game for the Bucks to win.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee Bucks Betting Picks & Predictions
Cleveland’s advantage on the bench is difficult to overlook. The Bucks’ struggling defense could also be in trouble against the Cavs’ explosive offense. How much the Cavs care about this game will also play a role. After beating the Bucks twice already this season, will they look to continue demoralizing them or to concede one contest? Here are our Cavs at Bucks predictions:
- The Cavs are, surprisingly, just a 1.5 or 2-point favorite in this game from most betting outlets. This preview suggests taking the Cavaliers -1.5 @ -110 with Bookmaker or Intertops.
- Sportsbooks are pretty united on the over/under here — it’s around 217. This is high for the total points in the average game, but these are two teams who are much better on offense than defense and play slightly on the fast side. So our pick is to go with the over 216.5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker.