Bucks vs Nets Picks and Predictions: The Champs Reintroduce Themselves

Brooklyn's trying to get itself back into a rhythm, but Milwaukee might have already found its grove. Find out why we're siding with the better two-way team for this massive Eastern Conference showdown with our Bucks vs. Nets picks.

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2022 2:51 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The East's two NBA Championship odds leaders go to war Thursday night as the Brooklyn Nets host the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Thanks to a recent repealing of New York's vaccination mandates, Kyrie Irving will be available for this game, in an almost-rematch of last summer's epic second-round series.

Find out who has the edge heading into tonight as we break down our Bucks vs. Nets NBA picks and predictions for March 31.

Bucks vs Nets odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.

Brooklyn opened anywhere from -1 to -3, but most books moved them to a 1.5-point favorite late Wednesday afternoon, where it remains Thursday morning. The total opened at 238 in most spots, and has been bet up to 239.5.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right until tip-off and be sure to check out the full NBA odds before betting to ensure you get the best number.

Bucks vs Nets predictions

Predictions made on 3/31/2022 at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Bucks vs Nets game info

Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Date: Thursday, March 31, 2022
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. ET

Bucks vs Nets betting preview

Key injuries

Bucks: No injuries to report.
Nets: Ben Simmons PG (Out), Joe Harris SF (Out).
Find our latest NBA injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Bucks are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Bucks vs. Nets.

Bucks vs Nets picks and predictions

Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.

Spread analysis

The Bucks made a serious statement Tuesday night, digging themselves out of a double-digit hole against the rival 76ers to pull off a massive 118-116 victory that gives them sole possession of the East's No. 2 seed. 

The irony, of course, is that the 2-seed is a pretty awful first-round draw, as it will very likely mean a matchup with the team Milwaukee visits tonight: the Brooklyn Nets. 

The Nets' season took a nose-dive off the disaster tree and hit every branch coming down, but with Kevin Durant healthy and Kyrie Irving cleared to play in all games, they're closer to full strength right now than they've been all season, with Ben Simmons still waiting in the wings. They're as dangerous a play-in team as we'll see. But are they dangerous enough to beat the Bucks?

Milwaukee's seemed like a sleeping giant in the East all season as it's managed through rotating injuries to virtually every key player. But now, at full strength themselves, the Bucks are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games, with straight-up wins over the Sixers, Suns, Heat, and Bulls (twice). 

The Herd's only losses in their last 11 games have come against the Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Warriors — strong defensive teams that can also score, providing the same capable two-way play that defines Milwaukee. And while the Nets can certainly bring it on offense, they're not going to put up much resistance on the other end. 

Brooklyn clocks in as the NBA's 22nd-ranked defense on the season, and could get worse with Irving — generally a minus defender — seeing more floor time. The Nets are painfully thin on legitimate options to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (who just dropped 40 points on 67% shooting against a far worse matchup) inside, and will almost surely have to stick an unideal defender on Jrue Holiday for the majority of this game.

Milwaukee not having developed a cover for Durant like it desired (RIP The Semi Ojeleye Experience) is a definite minus, but Giannis can spell them for stretches, especially in the second half if he has fouls to give. Having arguably the most versatile defender in NBA history up your sleeve is one hell of an insurance policy. 

The Bucks will have game tape from their 126-123 loss to Brooklyn a month ago, in which the Nets only committed seven turnovers (half their average) while winning both the rebounds and points in the paint battles — a tough thing to do against Giannis with no credible post threat. The Bucks also shot a rancid 65% from the line in that game compared to their season average of 77%, didn't have the underrated Book Lopez, and, with Durant out, let Kyrie gore them for 38 points.

Irving hasn't exactly been himself since returning to full-time play, averaging 17 points on 33% shooting over his past three games after lighting the league on fire for most of March. Kyrie can ignite at a moment's notice, but with Holiday checking him, it won't be as easy to get himself back into a consistent rhythm. 

Milwaukee has the tools to make life difficult for the Nets, with several excellent defenders on the perimeter and an elite rim-protecting duo of Giannis and Lopez. The Deer are playing the better ball of late (compared to both the Nets and themselves from a month ago), and enter this game with fewer question marks, having just beasted one of the East's best teams in a furious second-half comeback. 

Our bucks are going with the Bucks. 

Prediction: Bucks +1.5 (-110 at bet365)

Over/Under analysis

This game profiles as a shootout on paper, but has a very high total, creeping up to 239.5 or 240 as of Thursday morning.

It's fair to question whether this matchup will take on more of a grind-it-out playoff pace, given the stakes of this game and the reality that these teams might very likely lock into another postseason series in a couple of weeks. After all, none of their seven second-round games last season came even remotely close to tonight's Over.

But those are the playoffs, where more deliberate, calculated basketball that slows the pace and helps shorten rotations is almost always a given. Things aren't going to tighten up that much tonight, but will they enough for an Under?

The Bucks and Nets average a combined 241.8 ppg over their past 10, and we expect Milwaukee to exert more of a defensive effort in this game than they have recently. But the Nets don't have that muscle on the other end, and it wouldn't be shocking if the Bucks just overpowered the resistance. 

That should, in turn, force the Nets' hands on offense, where KD and Kyrie are all too capable of finding looks without deliberate shot-clock milking or extra-pass-making. It also doesn't hurt for over bettors that the Bucks concede threes at one of the NBA's highest rates, and the Nets have several excellent shooters in their stable. 

This is a tricky total that could go either way depending on how the Bucks choose to approach this matchup. But it's tough not to side with the movement given how offense-first both sides have been of late.

Prediction: Over 239.5 (-110 at bet365)

Best bet

Giannis shows up for big games. We know this about him at this point. 

A two-time MVP and Finals MVP, he has a track record of consistent destruction unlike few players in the modern era, including a 50-piece to clinch last year's title.

He knows tonight is a statement game, just like his last outing when he dropped 40/14/6 on Joel Embiid and the Sixers, who, as alluded to above, are a considerably worse matchup than a Nets unit with a less-cohesive team defense and worse rim protection. 

Giannis could have a field day in this matchup, and in the points + rebounds + assists market, can hedge his overall body of work in several ways. 

This total of 50.5 is a bit inflated, it's not a number we'd often suggest taking. But given who we're targeting here, the stakes of this game, and the matchup, we're totally okay firing away on it. 

Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo Over 50.5 points + rebounds + assists (-104)

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