- Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks own the joint-best records in the NBA
- Both teams suffered surprise losses in their last outings
- Get the odds, our pick, and all the info you need to bet the game below
It’s the night every NBA fan has been waiting for. The Los Angeles Lakers face the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night at Fiserv Forum in the best game of the season to date.
The Lakers and Bucks share the NBA’s best record at the moment, with both teams sitting at 24-4 ahead of their showdown in Wisconsin.
The Bucks, led by MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo, are favorites in the Los Angeles Lakers vs Milwaukee Bucks odds. LA has a couple of MVP contenders of their own in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and will be desperate to put down a marker after a surprise loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Milwaukee Bucks Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+4.5 (-115)||+150||Over 225 (-110)|
|Milwaukee Bucks||-4.5 (-105)||-170||Under 225 (-110)|
Odds taken Dec. 19th
Brow Meets Freak
Antetokounmpo and Davis will be guarding one another on Thursday. Two DPOY contenders and two of the hardest to guard players in the NBA – this makes for a mouth-watering matchup.
Stopping either superstar is pretty much impossible, but few players are as well-equipped to trouble Antetokounmpo as Davis is and vice-versa. Davis sat out the loss to the Pacers with a minor ankle injury, though he’s expected to be ready to duel with the Greek Freak in Milwaukee.
It’s always a team effort dealing with Antetokoumpo, but there’s no doubt that Davis will take the assignment on the majority of possessions. Davis’ field goal percentage allowed on shots from six feet and closer is 46.2%, which is sixth in the league. Antetokounmpo leads the league in shot attempts per game (11.8) from five feet or closer. He shoots 73.6% on such efforts.
Elite In the Paint
Three Milwaukee players – the Lopez brothers and Antetokounmpo – own a lower opponent’s field goal percentage close to the hoop than Davis. Thursday will be an exhibition of elite interior defense.
— Lakers Empire (@LakersEmpire) December 19, 2019
JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard will also be key to the Lakers’ Antetokounmpo-stopping efforts. Both have given Frank Vogel good minutes this year, but foul trouble has been an issue (McGee averages five fouls per 36, Howard averages 6.4).
McGee and Howard are needed for rim protection and to pull in rebounds. The battle on the glass will be huge as the Bucks are second in defensive rebound percentage, and the Lakers are fourth on the defensive boards and seventh in offensive rebound percentage.
King Faces Khris
It’s testament to the talent on the floor that we’ve got this far into a preview without mentioning James. The four-time MVP has had a couple of indifferent nights recently, going 8-for-20 from the floor against the Hawks and turning the ball over seven times in the first half against Miami.
Khris Middleton will likely get the unenviable task of guarding James. Middleton ranks 32nd of all small forwards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus, though he’s sixth on the offensive end. The South Carolina native had a rough night in the loss to the Mavericks, scoring just nine points, bringing an end to a streak of four consecutive 20-point games. Milwaukee need a big performance from Middleton on both ends, particularly if Davis is able to stop Antetokounmpo dominating.
Lakers Look Like Good Value
This potential NBA Finals preview is a must-watch. Winning streaks aren’t on the line like was expected, but it’s not often the two best teams in the NBA go head-to-head (and pretty much at full strength). James has been the undisputed best player in the league for a decade, and on Thursday he shares the floor with two players looking to succeed him.
Both teams have swept opponents aside despite being middle-of-the-pack in three-point percentage. With Davis matching up against Antetokounmpo, the Bucks need their shooters to hit shots, which they didn’t against Dallas. This is the sort of night that James enjoys – his playmaking will get good looks for Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and he will likely be more aggressive than he was against Indiana.
The combination of a healthy Davis and James might just see the Lakers edge this one.
Pick: Lakers Moneyline (+150)