Bucks vs Timberwolves Odds, Picks, and Predictions Tonight: Wolves Go Deer Hunting

The Bucks have been in every kind of headlight this season, and with Doc Rivers not providing any answers so far, our NBA picks think the Wolves feast on venison tonight.

Feb 23, 2024 • 13:33 ET • 4 min read
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This article contains predictions for an old game!

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We’re officially in the stretch run of the NBA season. While teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves have already honed their style of play to a fine edge, others, like their opponents on Friday, February 23 — the Milwaukee Bucks — will need every game between now and the postseason to build some kind of identity.

While NBA odds suggest the Bucks have a better chance of winning the championship this season than Minnesota, I don’t agree. 

Find out why I also think Minnesota is a strong bet to cover tonight as I make my NBA picks and predictions for Bucks vs. Wolves below.

Bucks vs Timberwolves odds

Bucks vs Timberwolves predictions

The Minnesota Timberwolves are contenders. Don’t let their relatively long odds fool you, this team has everything it needs to compete for a chip.

They not only own the best record in the West, but unlike the Milwaukee Bucks, they have a statistical profile that suggests they’re even better than their 39-16 record.

Minnesota’s point differential of +8.4 only trails the Boston Celtics and puts the Wolves in a tier alongside the Oklahoma City Thunder nearly two points clear of the next class of teams. You have to go pretty far down the list to get to the Bucks, who are just 11th in point differential and dropping fast.

Much has been made of the Bucks’ 3-7 record under Doc Rivers. While I’m not going to claim that Doc is blameless, I think it’s entirely too soon to give him too much credit or blame for the wins and losses this Milwaukee team racks up. 

What is true is that the problems that helped lead the Milwaukee brass to fire Adrian Griffin have begun to rise above a low rumble to a deafening roar. 

Their defensive personnel is dangerously thin. They’re old and slow at a lot of key positions. The fit between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard has not been as complementary as it seemed on paper.

This was a team that had outplayed their point differential all season, winning nip-and-tuck close games. In part, that’s why you trade for Lillard in the first place, because he can kill teams in the clutch.

But luck is also a factor, and was unlikely to last a whole season, let alone through the rigors of the playoffs. 

The losses Milwaukee’s suffered since (including a dispiriting one to the remnants of the Memphis Grizzlies right before the All-Star break) have revealed the Bucks’ true quality, and it’s below championship quality. 

I’m not saying Milwaukee can’t get there at some point. When their shots fall, they look unbeatable. But it feels comparatively sporadic and grasping next to the methodical beatdown Minnesota puts on teams.

Outside the statistical case in favor of the Timberwolves, the matchup also seems favorable to Minnesota. The Bucks are a team that plays two bigs like the Wolves, but because Antetokounmpo isn’t a threat as an outside shooter, they can’t make the Wolves pay for clogging the paint. 

Rudy Gobert is also playing some of the best basketball of his career and is as good of a defensive matchup for Giannis as there is in this league.

Lillard, meanwhile, has to contend with Jaden McDaniels ball-hawking him all night, or perhaps if he tires, even Anthony Edwards at times. Ant, in turn, can feast against one of the weakest perimeter defenses in the NBA. The Wolves have ready answers to questions that most teams find themselves drawing dead against.

The Wolves are also 23-11 against teams with a .500 record or above, the best mark in the Association. They level up their game against elite competition. I think they’ll do so again Friday night.

My best bet: Timberwolves -4.5 (-110 at bet365)

Bucks vs Timberwolves same-game parlay

Timberwolves -5

Anthony Edwards Over 27.5 points

Giannis Antetokounmpo Under 28.5 points 

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The Bucks’ biggest problems are structural, and they begin on the perimeter. The downgrade in defensive impact from Jrue Holiday to Lillard can’t be overstated. It also hurts Milwaukee that Khris Middleton continues to struggle with injuries and players like Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder have lost a step.

Enter Edwards. Ant was balling before the All-Star break, scoring 30 or more in four of his last six games. He’s going to have a noticeable athletic advantage and should have no problem beating the Bucks’ help to the rim.

I’m less confident about Giannis’ ability to score, however. When these two teams played a couple of weeks ago Giannis finished with just 17 points on 7-14 from the field. He played only 27 minutes after Rivers essentially conceded the game shortly into the third quarter. 

I don’t expect quite that level of shutout again tonight, but I do think there are a few reasons to take the Under on Giannis. 

One is the Gobert matchup. Rudy is the best rim protector in the NBA, with the size, dexterity, and strength to go toe-to-toe with Giannis. He makes his looks from his preferred spots materially more difficult. 

The second is that with Lillard in the lineup, more of the offense will run through Dame, particularly because Middleton is out. Middleton is still Giannis’ number-one pick-and-roll partner by far, and the synergy between him and Dame is not nearly as productive. 

That means Giannis will have to self-create a lot of his offense, which typically means less production against a defense this good.

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Bucks vs Timberwolves spread and Over/Under analysis

The Timberwolves opened as -4.5 point favorites for Friday, with that line nudging up to -5 at some sportsbooks. Given that the typical homecourt is worth in the ballpark of three points in the NBA, that suggests oddsmakers are much bigger believers in this version of Milwaukee than I am.

Only the lowly Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks have a worse record against the spread than the Bucks. 

Milwaukee is 21-34-1 ATS this season, covering just 38.2% of the time. That drops to 9-17 on the road, and just 1-4 when road dogs as it is tonight. For a team that relies so much on hitting shots to win games, road games are always going to be tough.

The Wolves for their part are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games.

The total for Friday opened at 223.5, and that’s risen a point to 224.5 at most sportsbooks. 

That’s a modest number by contemporary NBA standards, but I think one that’s on the mark. The Wolves have been the NBA’s best defense all season long by a mile, while their offense grades out as merely average. 

They often drag opposing teams down into the mud with them, slowing the game to a crawl. The Wolves play the fifth-slowest pace in the Association, while the Milwaukee plays at the fifth-fastest. 

I tend to believe that the better team is the one who will enforce their style of play, so I suspect this game will not be the up and down track meet that defines some of the Bucks’ performances. The Under is 14-9-1 in Minnesota home games this season.

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Bucks vs Timberwolves betting trend to know

The Bucks are just 1-4 ATS as road underdogs this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Bucks vs. Timberwolves.

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Bucks vs Timberwolves game info

Location: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Date: Friday, February 23, 2024
Tip-off: 10:00 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN

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