Bucks vs Hornets Odds, Picks, and Predictions Tonight: Milwaukee Keeps Clamps Down

Milwaukee has seemingly flipped a switch since the All-Star break with a defense that's shutting down opposing offenses. With the Bucks taking on the lowly Hornets tonight, our NBA picks expect that trend to continue.

Feb 29, 2024 • 13:32 ET • 4 min read
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Maybe all Doc Rivers needed was time. When the in-season hire took over the Milwaukee Bucks, things went terribly for a good while. They went 3-7 both outright and against the spread under Rivers before the All-Star Break. His hire was inducing a bit of incredulity, even more than when it initially occurred.

And now Milwaukee is 3-0 since the break, led entirely by its defense. That should continue tonight, given how bad the Charlotte Hornets are in general.

Doubting the Hornets' offense has been a profitable decision all season, so let’s do it again tonight in our free NBA picks and predictions as we preview Bucks vs. Hornets on February 29, with tip set for 7:00 p.m. ET.

Bucks vs Hornets odds

Bucks vs Hornets predictions

The Milwaukee Bucks made a choice when it traded Damian Lillard. It chose to lean into offensive variance at the expense of defensive strengths. That showed up early in the season, with the Bucks’ defensive rating sitting at No. 19 in the NBA up until Doc Rivers sat down on the bench while the offensive rating ranked No. 2 at 120.4.

Rivers’s immediate impact mostly showed itself in the offensive collapse, with Milwaukee’s offensive rating falling to No. 23 in his first 10 games. Sure, the defense improved a bit, but not nearly enough, 2.7 points in defensive rating is notable but still not enough to create a contender.

The improvements since the All-Star break can be given only so much weight thus far, just three games with two of them against some of the worst teams playing right now, but posting the No. 1 defensive rating and the No. 2 offensive rating warrants notice.

Rivers spent at least some of the break with stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. His philosophy seems to have caught on.

That makes sense. Practices and film sessions are rare in the NBA. There's not that much time in the regular season. Even if all Rivers could do was send his roster some studying material last week, that was a needed step for Milwaukee.

That emphasis should keep the Bucks engaged tonight, no matter how bad the Charlotte Hornets are.

And, to be clear, the Hornets are that bad: their offensive rating ranking No. 28 in the NBA in their last five games, a sample size chosen to somewhat align with Milwaukee’s surge. Go back further and Charlotte’s measureables do not improve, their offensive rating sitting at No. 29 across their last 15 games.

Milwaukee has held its last two opponents to double digits, including the Hornets on Tuesday. Tonight should run that streak to three.

My best bet: Hornets team total Under 102.5 (-108 at FanDuel)

Bucks vs Hornets same-game parlay

Hornets team total Under 102.5

Bucks -11.5

Damian Lillard Over 2.5 made threes

If not for some desperation threes from the Timberwolves late in their Friday loss to the Bucks, Milwaukee’s walloping of the spread this week would have a pile of attention. With seven minutes to go, the Bucks were covering by 10 points, and they then covered their next two games by 16.5 and 24.5 points.

Sportsbooks’ math has not caught up with whatever Rivers installed over the break, and it may take another week before they do so.

Part of that ease in covering will come from Damian Lillard’s shots from deep. In the last 15 games, 42.2% of opponents’ shots against Charlotte have come from beyond the arc, the fourth-highest rate in the NBA. Lillard will gladly take those shots.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Bucks vs Hornets spread and Over/Under analysis

Milwaukee was favored by 13.5 at home against the Hornets on Tuesday, winning by 38. That was impressive enough to impact the power ratings of both teams.

Consider the change in venue to Charlotte tonight and the usual 3- or 4-point swing tied to it, and a spread of about -10 would have been expected. That Tuesday laughter, though, explains the push to opening the spread at -11.5 and the climb to -12 around Thursday’s lunch.

This total opened a point lower than Tuesday’s closed, opening at 218.5 before falling all the way to 216 early Thursday morning and then rebounding up to 218 by mid-morning.

Bucks vs Hornets betting trend to know

Charlotte’s last six games have all gone Under the total. Find more NBA betting trends for Bucks vs. Hornets.

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Bucks vs Hornets game info

Location: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
Date: Thursday, February 29, 2024
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Southeast, Bally Sports Wisconsin

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