Milwaukee at Denver
Time: 8 PM CST (NBA TV)
Spread: DEN -6
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Milwaukee Bucks are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and have fared 19-6 against Western Conference teams. It travels to take on the Denver Nuggets, the No. 3 seed in the West and a 42-21 team in its own right. The Nuggets have lost five of its last 10 overall, but it trails the No. 2 seeded L.A. Clippers by just one game. Denver is 6-point favorites in this affair with the over/under set at 223.5 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes. The game will air at 8 PM (CST) on NBA TV.
Milwaukee has been outstanding thus far and has wholly dominated its competition with its 53-11 record thus far. Milwaukee is 19-6 against Western Conference opponents. It oddly has lost its last two overall, but still leads the No. 2 Toronto Raptors by 7.5 games.
The Bucks are No. 1 NBA in scoring at 119.0 points per game, and it allows just 107.3 per game. The Bucks have a win differential of +11.7 points. Milwaukee is the league’s best rebounding team, too, averaging 51.8 boards per contest.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may finally win his elusive MVP award, too. The Greek forward is averaging 30 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game while posting a silly-high PER of 33.50. That does not even take his defensive talents into play, where he averages 2.3 steals/blocks per game while playing outstanding one-on-one defense.
Khris Middleton is the No. 2 scorer at 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Eric Bledsoe is the third-option after Middleton with 15.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. George Hill has been a great sixth man for the Bucks. He is scoring 10 points and dishing three assists per game in just 21 minutes a night.
Veteran center Brook Lopez has been somewhat effective, but his 30.4 percent three-point shooting on 4.8 attempts per game certainly helps keep defenses honest and spreads the court for the Bucks. Lastly, Donte DiVincenzo has stepped into the same role he served at Villanova for the Bucks. He is providing a spark. The second-year guard is averaging 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 22.6 minutes per game. He has also started 20 games this season.
DEN NEWS & NOTES:
The Denver Nuggets are playing better, and as one would guess it mostly relates to a turnaround on the part of its star center Nikola Jokic.
Some have criticized Jokic for his poor conditioning, but it is hard to ignore the fact that he continues to play good basketball overall while using his immense skills to more than make up for his slow feet. Jokic is averaging 19.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and a team-leading 6.4 assists per game while posting a PER of 24.80. He also recently posted a 47-point game, so while Jokic may never appear to do anything too quickly, he does make the right moves and can be a dominant center in an era that does not even favor big men.
The Nuggets are led in scoring by Jamal Murray, who many expected to make a still-bigger leap following his outstanding postseason performances in 2019.
Instead, Murray is the second-leading at 17.6 points per game, and ranking No. 2 in assists at 4.6 per. Will Barton continues to look like a poor man’s Kevin Durant, providing a lot of shooting on the wing and a fearless trigger. Barton averages 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game and is one of five Nuggets with a PER above the league average of 15 (17.17).
The Nuggets are a deep team on paper, but it is still really not testing out the talents of Michael Porter Jr that much, and Malik Beasley saw a role reduction before being dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gary Harris and Barton both see over 32 minutes per game, leaving the backups to fight over the remaining minutes, leaving some good talents to sit, naturally. Juancho Hernangomez has had his role decline and he too was jettisoned to the T-Wolves, though he did average four points per game in just 13 minutes a night.
That moves up Michael Porter Jr. on the depth chart, and he led the Nuggets in scoring last game with 19 points, and if he is able to come on strong and stay healthy, Denver could be “scary good.”
The Nuggets will eventually likely decided on a shorter rotation, but for the time being there are 11 Nuggets who play at least 14 minutes per game. It is a team loaded with talent, but both of its top scoring options are probably not true No. 1 options on a contending team, and that includes Jokic. The Nuggets have great team chemistry, but one wonders if its lack of true star power might not hurt it. While Nikola Jokic and Murray function quite well as a tandem, it seems Denver would be better delegating more responsibility to one or the other, to develop a true 1A option, especially late in games.