- The LA Lakers are in Milwaukee for a showdown with the Bucks
- The Lakers are 7-0 on the road this year, while the Bucks are 6-1 at home
- Check the odds, analysis and betting preview below
While it is just the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks, more than any other top team, need to see how they stack up to elite competition.
They’ll get a pretty good test Thursday night against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, who should be laser focused after a letdown loss on Monday.
Make no mistake, both are at the top in the NBA Championship odds, and the defending champs have been given the slimmest of favorite margins in this one.
Lakers vs Bucks Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||-0.5 (-110)||-108||Ov 228.5 (-110)|
|Milwaukee Bucks||+0.5 (-110)||-108||Un 228.5 (-110)|
Odds from FanDuel taken January 20 Tip-off is Thursday at 7pm ET
It will be the first matchup between these two this season. As of this writing, Los Angeles sits first in the NBA standings at 11-4, while the Bucks are in a tie for second in the East with the Philadelphia 76ers at 9-5.
Lakers Get Wake Up Loss
Perhaps things were getting a little too easy for LA. After the ultra-short offseason after winning the championship, the Lakers raced out to the best record in the league, the only team in the NBA with a double-digit point differential per game.
The Purple and Gold now lead the NBA in defensive rating 🛡🛡🛡 pic.twitter.com/LoZ9qEnJNv
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 14, 2021
Head coach Frank Vogel is trotting out a lineup that sits in the top tier of most offensive statistics — LA ranks sixth in scoring at 115.3 points per game, second in field shooting (48.8%), fifth in three-point shooting (39.1%) and third in rebounds per game (48.6), while also ranking first in defensive rating. That includes third in points allowed per contest (105.1), and holding teams to 44.5% shooting from the field (fifth) and 33.8% from deep.
They’ve been doing this with minimal wear to superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron is logging his lowest career minute output, currently tied for 64th in the NBA at 32.2. The ‘Brow is currently in 62nd at 32.3 minutes.
STEPH CURRY with the clutch 3 over AD 🔥
He scored 19 in the 2nd half of the Warriors 19-POINT COMEBACK win over the Lakers!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 19, 2021
So the 115-113 loss to the Warriors on Monday was a chance to knock the champs down a peg. They blew a 19-point lead, including a 64-48 halftime lead, and a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter. Golden State is a work in progress and at least a tier lower than LA, so getting outscored 34-21 and failing to come up with any winning plays in the final frame should be enough to have the Lakers ready for a showdown with the Bucks.
Bucks Hang With Nets
In recent years, the Bucks would have been the early toast of the league, with blistering fast starts and Giannis Antetokounmpo setting off highlight reels on the regular. And while they are still potent offensively — they trail only the Wizards in points per game at 120.4 — you can see this a work in progress, that needs to gel in time for the playoffs.
BUCKS BEAT THE MAVERICKS 112-109🔥
• Giannis 31 points, 9 reb, 2-5 from 3
• Khris 25 points, 8 reb, 6 ast
• Holiday 16 points, 3 reb, 5 ast
— IKE Bucks Podcast (@IKE_Bucks) January 16, 2021
Giannis is still Giannis, leading the team in scoring at 27.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Khris Middleton is playing at an all-star clip as well, averaging 22.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists, while shooting 52.7% from the field and 43.9% from deep.
Their newest and most important acquisition, Jrue Holiday, is finding his footing offensively, averaging 15.7 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 boards, while adding an impressive two-way element with elite defense.
Jrue Holiday: 6'4" 205
Blake Griffin: 6'9" 250 pic.twitter.com/RSPRy0Z1S8
— Nathan Marzion (@nathanmarzion) January 14, 2021
Milwaukee mortgaged a lot to get Holiday, including future assets, but also a present-day bench. Only Bobby Portis averages better than 10 points a game as a reserve, and coach Mike Budenholzer hopes the rest of their fill-ins can float the team to the playoffs, where the more top-heavy lineup can handle things night in and night out.
Ending to the Bucks/Nets game last night.
Easily one of the best games of the season so far. pic.twitter.com/jiJ9bqNQhv
— nba info (@nbainfonba) January 19, 2021
That was on display Monday night in a thriller with the Nets, which came down to the wire. Giannis logged nearly 40 minutes, with Holiday at 37+ and Middleton at 36+. In fact, the Bucks only went nine-deep, with DJ Augustin playing the most minutes off the bench, with 19:05.
While the end result was a 125-123 loss, the new Bucks formula seems to have them more equipped in big-game moments.
What’s The Best Bet?
Close one to call. The Lakers have yet to lose on the road this year, seeking their eighth straight win. The Bucks have lose just once in seven home dates. Obviously, Milwaukee is aiming to win, but they should be ultra-competitive in a game that means more to them than LA.
This comes down to final few possessions, and I think the Lakers’ championship swagger comes through, particularly with executing in the fourth quarter, the exact thing that cost them a win last time out.
The pick: Lakers -0.5 (-110)
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