Bucks vs Grizzlies Picks and Predictions: Ja Does Damage From Distance

The Bucks love leaving Ja Morant open behind the arc and that's especially likely tonight with Jrue Holiday sidelined. See what that means for the Grizzlies PG's prop markets as our NBA picks break down this possible Finals preview.

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2022 2:20 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Ja Morant Memphis Grizzlies
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The current No. 2 seeds in each conference battle Thursday night as the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Memphis Grizzlies.

Both squads are 8-2 in their last 10 games and bring elite defenses to this showdown between NBA MVP odds contenders Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ja Morant. 

See where the best betting value lies as our NBA picks and predictions for Bucks vs. Grizzlies break down tonight's premiere matchup. 

Bucks vs Grizzlies best odds

Bucks vs Grizzlies picks and predictions

My original intent in this matchup was to mash Jaren Jackson Jr.'s blocks Over, but he was curiously absent from player props markets as of Thursday morning, and, when eventually released, heavily juiced. 

While it would be ideal to ride JJJ's wave, the markets are giving us overt value elsewhere, and it has to do with how the Bucks are likely to guard Ja Morant

Morant's an absolute problem for teams that let him get into the paint (which few seem capable of stopping), and the absence of Jrue Holiday this evening deprives the Bucks of arguably the position's best defender to smother Ja.

As such, the Bucks, who boast the best rim-protection duo in NBA, are likely to hit Morant with a ton of drop coverage on pick-and-rolls. There's plenty of historical precedent: In his lone meeting with the Bucks last year, Morant shot 10 threes (his second-highest total of the season), hitting four of them. In two 2020-21 matchups, he went 3-13 and 3-9, in a season where he averaged just 3.9 attempts. 

Ja never shies away from launching threes when defenses give him the shot, and Memphis will need extra spacing credibility with Desmond Bane still sidelined. Even though his rep is an inconsistent shooter that defenders gladly take the lesser of two evils with, Ja's hitting threes at a league-average rate this season (35.5%), and has multiple treys in five of his last seven games. 

This matchup has plenty of Morant long-range attempts written all over it, and unless he goes ice-cold from distance on wide-open looks, he should sail over this total, which we somehow get at better-than-even money. 

My best bet: Ja Morant Over 1.5 made threes (+104)

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Bucks vs Grizzlies spread analysis

Though neither of these teams has exactly been healthy to start the season, they're both clearly among the cream of their conference's crop. 

The Bucks bolted out of the gate with the NBA's best defense despite Khris Middleton's ongoing rehab, while the Grizzlies started the season with Jackson shelved, and Bane — in the midst of a breakout All-Star season — soon to join him. 

Jackson's return has meant all the difference for Memphis, which was noticeably leaky around the rim with its reigning First Team All-Defense big sidelined. Since JJJ's return, things have been, um, different: 

Memphis has the NBA's second-best defensive rating over the past 10 games, now ranking sixth on the season after wallowing in the bottom half for the first six weeks. 

Jackson's been an utter force around the rim, which is huge in a matchup with historical post weapon Giannis Antetokounmpo. It gives the Grizzlies a core competency to combat Milwaukee's main means of attack, allowing perimeter defenders to stay home on the likes of Middleton and Brook Lopez

As talented as the Grizzlies are, their composure can come undone at times in big games, and while I have all the faith in them, I'm not rushing out to bet them as favorites against the best basketball player on Earth, and a system that's fairly dysfunctional for Morant's M.O.

For what it's worth, while the Bucks are one of the NBA's better ATS bets at 15-10-2 on the season, Memphis' median 13-12-2 mark masks the fact that the Grizzlies are 8-3-1 ATS as home favorites.

Bucks vs Grizzlies Over/Under analysis

Memphis' defensive rebirth seems hardly baked into a line that sits mostly at 226.5, only slightly below the 228.1 ppg these teams combine to average, while allowing just 219.3.

One would expect, at face value, each team's attack being slightly hindered, with the Bucks walling off the paint against Morant, and the Grizzlies having a stout post duo to battle the Bucks on the glass and at least offer some resistance to Giannis at the rim (as relative a concept as that is).

With both teams relatively neutral-paced as a median (Memphis is 10th, while the Bucks sit 14th), and among the stingier transition defenses in the NBA (Grizzlies seventh, Milwaukee ninth), this may not become the track meet those that watched these squads last year would expect. 

Better yet for Under bettors, these are two of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the league, with Memphis dead last (70.2%) and Milwaukee not much better in 27th (73.9%).

Despite the Under indicators, I'm not crazy about this market tonight, as these are still two dangerous scoring squads with multiple players who can go off and drive the Over. But, if forced, the Under would be my play here.

Bucks vs Grizzlies betting trend to know

The Grizzlies are 8-3-1 ATS as home favorites this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Bucks vs. Grizzlies.

Bucks vs Grizzlies game info

Location: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Date: Thursday, December 15, 2022
Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET

Bucks vs Grizzlies key injuries

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