Mavericks at Bucks NBA Pick for December 16

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Monday night’s interconference tilt between the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks could have been used as a barometer for both teams. Both have been playing incredibly well of late, and it’s not impossible to think that these two teams could tangle against one another in the NBA Finals at some point. If not this year, maybe next year.

The Bucks were the only team in the league to win 60 games a season ago, and they’re well on their way to repeating the feat this year. Milwaukee is off to a blistering 24-3 start to the campaign, and they enter Monday’s contest at home against Dallas as winners of 18 in a row. It’s one of the longest winning streaks in the history of the league, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll lose any time soon.

Dallas has the third-best record in the Western Conference, but they may struggle over the next few weeks. The new face of the franchise, Luka Doncic, suffered a serious-looking ankle sprain in the Mavs’ overtime loss at home against the Miami Heat on Saturday night. While Doncic was fortunate to avoid a more serious injury, he is still expected to be sidelined for at least the next couple of weeks.

Obviously, that means he’ll miss the highly-anticipated showdown against reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. His absence is reflected in the betting odds for this game. MyBookie has the Bucks listed as sizable 11-point favorites to take care of the Mavs on Monday night in a game with a high total of 228 points.

Betting Data Mavericks Bucks
2019 Straight-Up 17-8 24-3
2019 Home 8-6 13-1
2019 Away 9-2 11-2
2019 ATS 15-10-0 15-12-0
2019 ATS Home 6-8-0 8-6-0
2019 ATS Away 9-2-0 7-6-0
2019 O/U 17-8-0 14-12-1
2019 O/U Home 9-5-0 8-6-0
2019 O/U Away 8-3-0 6-6-1

Back-to-Back MVP?

While Doncic has built a sterling MVP case for himself with his play early in the season, the odds-on favorite to win the award again is Antetokounmpo. Giannis became the first foreign-born player since Steve Nash to win the award last year, and he’s a good bet to do so again. The Bucks once again look like the cream of the crop, and Giannis has actually gotten even better.

Last year, Giannis’ averages of 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game was enough for him to win the award. So far this year, he’s all the way up to 31 points per game alongside 12.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks a night. For good measure, he has also improved his 3-point shooting percentage by 7 points already. It’s still not a strong suit of his game, but he has clearly shown improvement in that regard. Antetokounmpo is doing all of this despite averaging just 31 minutes per game. The Bucks are involved in so many blowouts that he’s not even playing huge minutes.

The Bucks are dealing with an injury of their own. Milwaukee will be without starting point guard Eric Bledsoe over the next few weeks as he recovers from a shin injury. Second-year swingman Donte DiVincenzo started in Bledsoe’s place in the last game against Cleveland, and I’d imagine that will be the arrangement moving forward. George Hill, Sterling Brown and Pat Connaughton are other candidates to log more minutes while Bledsoe is out.

Milwaukee has an absurd point differential of plus-13.6 so far this season. Not only is that the best mark in the league, it’s the best mark by a pretty huge margin. The Lakers (plus-9.4) have the second-best point differential to this point. When the Warriors won a record 73 games back in the 2015-16 season they had a point differential of plus-10.8, which is still a record. The Bucks were at plus-8.8 last season in their 60-22 campaign.

More Responsibility for Other Mavericks

Luka Doncic does a little bit of everything for the Mavericks, so playing without him for a while is going to be an adjustment. The shorthanded Mavs gave the Heat a good game on Saturday night before losing in overtime, but they’ll be hard-pressed to keep up with the Bucks on the road tonight.

Replacing 29 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds of production won’t be easy. Kristaps Porzingis will be tasked with stepping up offensively, while guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry, Jalen Brunson and Justin Jackson will likely have extra offensive responsibilities, as well. Porzingis is the team’s second-leading scorer so far this season at 16.8 points per game. He’s going to have to up his aggressiveness considerably if Dallas is going to keep their heads above water with their franchise player out of the mix.

These are the 2 best offensive teams in basketball this season. Dallas leads the league with an offensive efficiency of 114.6 points per 100 possessions, while the Bucks are right behind them at 113.2. The difference between the teams is that Milwaukee also happens to be the league’s stingiest defense, yielding just 99.5 points per 100 possessions. Dallas is down at 15th (106.4) in the same category.

It’s also safe to assume the Mavericks’ offensive rating will take a hit with Luka on the bench for the next couple of weeks.

The Pick

Frankly, I just don’t see how the Mavericks can keep pace in this one. Nobody goes into Milwaukee and wins anymore, especially teams playing without their best player. It takes a Herculean effort to actually beat the Bucks these days, and I just can’t see the shorthanded Mavs doing it. I can’t see them keeping the game competitive for 4 full quarters, either.

The 11-point spread is a wide one, but it isn’t wide enough. I’d hop on the Bucks side of this bet as soon as you can. There’s a very real chance this spread balloons to 12 or 13 as we get closer to tip-off.


Bucks -11


Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with 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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