The NBA slows down the pace on Thursday with just three games and the grind of the regular season has turned anticipated matchups into afterthoughts due to injuries and rest.
Let’s break down the card!
(Straight Up – SU, Against the Spread – ATS)
Milwaukee (58-20 SU, 46-29-3 ATS) at Philadelphia (49-30 SU, 36-42 ATS)
Unfortunately for fans and bettors, this possible playoff preview will be lacking plenty of luster on Thursday as the game will be filled with a lot of backup players. The injury report for the Bucks has seven players listed as ‘out’ or ‘questionable’ while the 76ers will likely be without Joel Embiid and possibly Jimmy Butler as well.
These teams just played to a classic battle in Milwaukee on Mar. 17 and the 76ers captured a 130-125 win over the Bucks as 5 ½-point road underdogs. Embiid scored 40 points for Philadelphia while Butler added 27 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 52 points and posted 16 rebounds in a losing effort for the Bucks, but the team just couldn’t connect from 3-point land (16-of-50) in the loss.
Milwaukee is ranked second in attempted 3-pointers per game with 38.2 and that ‘make-or-miss’ approach from distance has made the Bucks the top scoring team in the league at 117.9 points per game. Philadelphia isn’t far behind (115.2 PPG) them but the difference for the Bucks is their defense (108.6 PPG) and that production has led to the best point differential (9.3) in the NBA. To put things in perspective, Milwaukee has won 45 of its 58 games this season by 10 points or more.
Thursday’s encounter will be the third and final meeting of the regular season between the pair. The first meeting took place in late October and Milwaukee defeated Philadelphia 123-108 as a five-point home favorite. The Bucks have lost their last two trips to Philadelphia, which both occurred last season, and both decisions were by double digits as they were held to 94 and 95 points.
Similar to the first two matchups from Milwaukee, the Bucks have been installed as five-point favorites for this road matchup. The total is 230 ½.
The 76ers will be playing on no rest after losing at Atlanta 130-122 on Tuesday as 4 ½-point road favorites. Including that setback, Philadelphia has dropped two straight games and four of its last six but the team hasn’t pushed out a full-strength roster in weeks since it’s all but locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. When facing back-to-back spots this season, Philadelphia has gone 4-7 SU and 3-8 ATS while the ‘over’ has gone 8-3.
While Philadelphia has been on cruise control lately, the Bucks continue to rack up wins despite shuffling players in and out of the roster. Antetokounmpo played for Milwaukee on Monday as the team diced up Brooklyn 131-121 as one-point road underdogs and most reports have him expected to play in this game.
Since the loss to Philadelphia in mid-March, the Bucks have gone 6-2 SU and 5-2-1 ATS. The two losses came on the road and to a pair of losing clubs (Hawks, Cavaliers) but despite those setbacks, Milwaukee owns the best road mark (26-14 SU, 23-15-2 ATS) in the league. This will be their final road game of the regular season.
TNT will provide national coverage of this game at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Cleveland (19-59 SU, 37-40-1 ATS) at Sacramento (38-40 SU, 44-32-2 ATS)
The Kings opened as 10-point home favorites over the Cavaliers and the number was pushed down to 9 ½ as of Thursday morning. I don’t expect Sacramento to lose this game but we did see Chicago (+9 ½) surprise Washington last night as a heavy road underdog in a meaningless game. While that outcome was an upset, three other heavy double-digit favorites on Wednesday went 3-0 both SU and ATS for ‘chalk’ bettors.
Sacramento blasted Cleveland 129-110 on Dec. 7 as a three-point road favorite and that was the fourth straight cover for the Kings in this series. The Cavaliers own the worst road record (6-33 SU, 18-20-1 ATS) in the league and they’ve gone 1-9 (5-5 ATS) since the All-Star break as visitors and the defense has allowed 120.1 PPG during this span, which has led to a 7-3 ‘over’ mark.
The high side (228 ½) could be the lean in this spot or a better look could be the Sacramento Team Total ‘over’ (119). Sacramento has gone 4-5 at home in the second-half of the season but all five losses came against teams with winning records while the victories were against clubs below .500. In those wins, the Kings averaged 118 PPG while winning by an average of 13.5 PPG.
Golden State (53-24 SU, 33-43-1 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (35-43 SU, 31-45-2 ATS)
The second-half of Thursday’s TNT (10:35 p.m. ET) double-header takes place at the Staples Center when the Warriors (-13) face the Lakers as heavy road favorites. After losing to Los Angeles 127-101 on Christmas Day as nine-point home favorites, the Warriors have avenged that setback with two straight wins (1-1 ATS) against the Lakers and both results came by double digits.
The holiday upset of Golden State happened to be the turning point of the season for Los Angeles, who lost LeBron James to a groin injury in that win. The club was 20-14 at the time and expected to be a playoff team, possibly a contender. His absence, other key injuries, trade rumors and off-the-court drama watched the team go 15-29 since the X-Mas day win. The Lakers recently shut James down for the season and practically every other viable offensive weapon as well.
The lack of firepower was evident on Tuesday as Los Angeles was blasted 119-103 at Oklahoma City as a 12 ½-point road underdog. Prior to that loss, the Lakers had gone 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS in their previous five games. They have won three straight games at home entering this matchup but it would be shocking to see that streak extended tonight.
Golden State’s magic number to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference is “3” and it will likely drop to “2” after beating Los Angeles this evening. Golden State has won four of its last five games and has managed to go 3-2 ATS for bettors despite laying some healthy numbers. The Warriors are no strangers to laying big prices, even on the road.
Last Friday, the club dropped a 131-130 overtime decision at Minnesota as a 10-point road favorite and that was the first time this season that Golden State lost as a double-digit road favorite. Prior to that decision, the Warriors were 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS when laying 10-plus points away from the Bay Area. The ‘over’ has gone 7-1 in these situations and tonight’s total is listed at 227.