After a weeklong All-Star hiatus that felt like it lasted 3 months, the NBA is finally back in action on Thursday. We have 6 games on the schedule tonight. While the schedule-makers declined to give us a truly marquee matchup, there are a few interesting contests on the slate.
One of those features the Milwaukee Bucks traveling to Motown to visit the Pistons. Detroit is a team that looks awfully different from the one we saw even 2 weeks ago, while the Bucks are continuing their trek toward the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee easily swept Detroit in 4 games in last year’s first round of the playoffs. Every single game in that series was decided by double-digits, which came as a surprise to nobody. The Central Division rivals have met one another twice already this season, with the Bucks having won both games by a combined 38 points. These teams are just living in different worlds right now, which explains why the Bucks enter Thursday night’s showdown as hefty 13-point favorites at BetOnline.
Giannis Antetokounmpo to return for Bucks after missing 2 games due to the birth of his son
Milwaukee has beaten Detroit twice by at least 14 points already this season
Pistons playing first game since buying out the contract of Reggie Jackson
Giannis Antetokounmpo is in search of his second consecutive MVP award, and he’s a sizable favorite to get the job done. Giannis exits the All-Star break as a massive -400 betting favorite at BetOnline to capture the MVP trophy for the second consecutive season. He’s improved his numbers over last year, and he has helped the Bucks to the best record in the league.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field on the year. While he’s still far from Steph Curry from 3-point range, he has upped his percentage from 25.6 percent last year to 31.3 percent so far in 2019-20. For good measure, he’s also contributing 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. Most impressively, he’s putting up these monster numbers while averaging just 30.9 minutes per game.
One could only imagine what kinds of numbers the Greek Freak would average if the Bucks needed him to play his full allotment of minutes every night. That they haven’t needed him to is a testament to their sheer dominance as a team. Milwaukee has a point differential of plus-12.1 per game this season, which would be an NBA record if they’re able to keep it up through all 82 games. For the sake of reference, the 2015-16 Warriors team that finished with a record 73 wins had a point differential of plus-10.8.
Antetokounmpo missed the last couple of games before the All-Star break due to the birth of his son, but he’s not listed on the injury report for tonight’s game after playing in Sunday’s ASG. He wasn’t able to lead his team to victory over Team Giannis, but Antetokounmpo did finish with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pistons made a playoff appearance a season ago on the shoulders of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, among others. Now, all 3 of those players are gone. Griffin is done for the season after undergoing a left knee procedure in January. Drummond was shockingly traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers just hours before the trade deadline a couple of weeks ago, while Jackson was bought out of his contract with the Pistons earlier this week. Jackson subsequently inked a deal to chase a ring with the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, we’ll see where the Pistons go from here. Young guard Luke Kennard is still sidelined with a knee injury.
One would imagine a lot of the offense will center around Derrick Rose, but what use does a team like the Pistons have for a 31-year-old that will be a free agent this summer?
I’d be very surprised if Dwane Casey ran Rose into the ground chasing meaningless wins over the final couple of months of the season.
Instead, I’d imagine the Pistons will give a few extra minutes to their younger players to see what they can do. Christian Wood has averaged 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game over the last 10 games, and those averages have come up since Drummond was dealt. Bruce Brown, Thon Maker, Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya would seem to be among the young guys that Detroit would like to get a longer look at.
While some of those guys may turn out to be useful pieces, it’s safe to assume that giving them additional playing time won’t do much to make Detroit a competitive team down the stretch of the season. Detroit is already 19 games under the .500 mark, even with Drummond having been in the lineup for the vast majority of those contests.
Vegas thinks this is the biggest mismatch on the board Thursday night, and it’s hard to disagree. The 46-8 Bucks are 6.5 games ahead of the Raptors for the top seed in the conference, and it’s impossible to see them coughing up that lead. Milwaukee is a whopping 28.5 games ahead of Detroit in the standings.
The Pistons’ point differential of minus-2.6 isn’t as bad as their record might make you think, but that’s a number that’s going to get worse between now and when the season comes to a close in mid-April. Detroit has gone just 21-35-1 against the spread this season, which is the second-worst ATS record in the league. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves (18-33-2) have been a less fruitful ATS betting option.
The Bucks, meanwhile, are 31-23-0 against the spread, which is the third-best mark in the Association. That’s extra impressive when you consider how often the Bucks have been listed as double-digit favorites, as they are tonight. They’ve just made a habit of blowing teams out of the water, and that should continue tonight.
The Bucks will have no trouble with the Pistons here, even with the game being played in Detroit. Bet on Milwaukee to cover the hefty 13-point spread and don’t look back.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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