We are treated to a potential NBA Finals preview when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are 6-1 at home this season, but LeBron James and the Lakers may have them right where they want them, as the defending champs are undefeated in seven games on the road this season, going 5-2 against the spread.
Do you roll with the defending champs from L.A. or is there value with the home side? Here are our favorite NBA free picks and predictions for Lakers vs. Bucks on Thursday, Jan. 21, with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Betting Preview
Lakers: Anthony Davis F (Probable), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope G (Probable), Wesley Matthews G (Probable), LeBron James (Questionable).
Bucks: No key injuries to report.
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Betting Trend to Know
The Under is 6-1 in the Lakers' seven road games this season, and 4-1 in the Bucks' last five games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Lakers vs. Bucks.
NBA Sharp Money and Line Movement ReportBy Patrick Everson
With tipoff minutes away, the Bucks have dipped down to -1 at FanDuel, after opening 1-point home underdogs and peaking at -2. The Lakers are attracting 69 percent of point-spread bets and 63 percent of money, down from 69 percent of money three hours ago. The total bounced from 228.5 to 229.5 to 227.5, and it's now back at the 228.5 opener, with 63 percent of tickets/58 percent of money on the Over.
Check out the full line movement for this game
Against the Spread (ATS) Pick
The Lakers are coming off one of their few “bad” performances of the season, letting a 14-point lead slip away against the Golden State Warriors the last time out. The loss ended a five-game winning streak for L.A. but you can’t take away from how impressive the Lakers have been this season, and it all starts with their dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
LeBron is putting up what looks like an effortless 23.7 points on 47.9 percent shooting, with 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. While Davis is adding 21.3 points with 9.0 boards and 1.9 blocks per contest. With those two, the Lakers will always be tough to stop, but what has been most impressive about L.A. this season has been the defense.
The Lakers rank first in the NBA in defensive rating, defensive efficiency and are second in points allowed. This is pretty incredible considering the Lakers are the defending champions coming off the shortest offseason in pro sports history. No one would think twice if L.A. took it easy on that end of the floor at this point in the season, but that just hasn’t been the case. Now, that defense will face its toughest test in the Bucks.
Milwaukee ranks first in offensive rating, second in offensive efficiency, and second in scoring. Two-time defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of course leads the way with 27.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists. But this matchup should come down to whether or not the Bucks can make shots against the stingy Lakers defense. Milwaukee is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, while L.A. is one of the best when it comes to defending the perimeter.
The other thing to consider is that, despite bringing in an elite defender in Jrue Holiday, the Bucks have taken a step back on defense. After leading the NBA in defensive rating a season ago, they currently rank 11th. Meanwhile, the Lakers have the fourth-best offense in terms of rating.
The intensity in this game should be high, and LeBron will Co. will want to bounce back after a bad loss last time out. Back the champs in this spot.
PREDICTION: Lakers +1 (-110)
The Bucks were a red-hot Over bet to begin the season before a string of Unders brought that back down to Earth, and while they cruised to another Over in a 125-123 loss against the Brooklyn Nets the last time out, you just knew that game was going to have a run-and-gun style to it.
Two of those recent Unders came against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Dallas Mavericks, two very strong defensive teams, and there is no one stronger on the defensive end this season than the Lakers. In those two games, the Bucks averaged just 106 points per contest, while the Lakers allow just 105.1 points per game.
The Lakers have been a solid Under bet all season long (5-10 O/U), particularly on the road where the Under has cashed in six of their seven games. With the intensity expected to be elevated for this matchup, back the Under again.
PREDICTION: Under 229 (-110)
One area where the Bucks have struggled this season has been defending the perimeter ranking 21st in both opponent 3-point percentage and attempts, and no one is taking more threes for the Lakers than LeBron. James is averaging 6.4 attempts per game, while shooting a passable 37.5 percent from long range. But you just know The King will want to put on a show against Giannis and the Bucks. Bet him to go Over his made threes total in this one.
PREDICTION: LeBron James Over 2.5 Made Threes (-115)
Lakers vs Bucks Betting Card
- Lakers +1 (-110)
- Under 229 (-110)
- LeBron James Over 2.5 Made Threes (-115)
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