Denver at Milwaukee
Time: 7 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: MIL -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Milwaukee Bucks are 32-24 and seeded No. 5 in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks have won eight of its past 10 overall, and are 19-9 at home where it hosts the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have posted a 8-19 mark on the road this season and have won its past two games and seven of its past 10. Milwaukee most recently disposed of the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference, beating the Orlando Magic 111-104 and the Atlanta Hawks 97-92. The Bucks have won five of its past six overall, with wins over New York (twice) and Brooklyn—with the loss having come to the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is having a season for the ages. He is averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.44 steals and 1.31 blocks while posting a PER of 28.7. Antetokounmpo makes such an impact on both ends of the court, and the Bucks have some star power around him now to make a real run in the East. Eric Bledsoe was acquired for the cost of Greg Monroe, and the man sometimes called “mini LeBron” has thrived.
Bledsoe is averaging 2.11 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in addition to his 17.1 points and 4.5 assists. Khris Middleton is having another strong season with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. Sophomore Malcolm Brogdon has not radically improved since his rookie season, but he has been very solid at least–and he is a strong defensive cog on the perimeter.
The Bucks have also been pleased with the progress of Thon Maker, who while not making a big statistical impact has shown some promising signs of becoming a major defensive player. Maker averages just 5.0 points and 3.4 boards per game, but he plays just 18 energetic minutes per night. The Bucks also have been getting some premier shooting from Tony Snell.
A lot of focus must be put on Jabari Parker, as well, who is seeing 17 minutes a night through his first five games. Parker is averaging 8.8 points and 2.6 rebounds, which adjusting to full-time minutes, works out to about 18 points per-36. He may be just fine. If Parker continues to progress, the Bucks may be the team every Eastern Conference team seeks to avoid drawing in the postseason.
The Denver Nuggets have won five of its past six overall, most recently defeating the San Antonio Spurs in convincing 117-109 fashion.
Denver is a team that many have suggested need a point guard, but the Nuggets rank No. 6 in offensive rating in the NBA, and they get it done through the sharp (and sometimes wizardly) passing of center Nikola Jokic. Jokic leads the Nuggets in assists per game with 5.5, which ultimately reduces the playmaking load of Denver’s bevy of shooting guards. The team really has no true point guard on its roster, though Emmanuel Mudiay was originally billed as a 1. More of a combo guard, he and Jamal Murray usually man up with opposing points, but combined the pair averages just 5.9 assists per game. Mudiay was dealt to the New York Knicks.
The Nuggets as a team post 24.1 assists per game with 14.7 turnovers per night, so to criticize the team’s success on the base of its offense would be incorrect.
Defensively is where the Nuggets need the most improvement. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are both defending at about an average level, but the team as a whole lacks continuity on that end of the court, and missing Paul Millsap’s shot blocking is just the beginning of a whole plethora of issues plaguing the Nuggets.
Denver ranks just No. 21 in defensive rating and Jokic is part of the issue there, strangely. While the center is a demon with the ball in his hands, he is slow in rotating and the Nuggets seem to prefer to almost never use Kenneth Faried, who is a defensive game changer at times. Denver has some tradeable pieces, and Mason Plumlee leaves plenty to be desired defensively, too.
Even so, the Nuggets are a high scoring team that can play with the league’s dominant teams and steal occasional wins, it is just probably in need of a better secondary playmaker to play with Jokic—and also probably a defensive forward who can “quarterback” its defense to call it switches and better the defensive communication.