Milwaukee Bucks vs Memphis Grizzlies (12/15 @ 8:00 PM EST)
Money Line: EVEN
Overview and Betting Info
The Milwaukee Bucks (20-7) head to Memphis Thursday to face the Grizzlies (18-9) in a matchup between two of the NBA’s elite teams. The Bucks lead the overall series 26-25 and have won four of the last six matchups in Memphis. The last three meetings have been decided by more than ten points.
The Bucks are 15-10-2 against the spread this season and have covered seven of their last ten games. They’ve gone over the total 13 times but have gone under in three of their last five.
The Grizzlies are 13-12-2 versus the spread and have covered their last six games. They’ve also gone over the total 13 times and have gone under in three of their last four games.
The Buck’s come into Thursday with the second-best record in the NBA, thanks to one of the league’s top defenses. They are allowing the second-fewest points per game (107.6), third in blocks (6.0), and first in rebounds (48.8) and opponent field goal percentage (44.5%). It’s been a massive change after the team struggled last season, and it revolves around defending the three. While the offense has lagged, with just 112.6 yards per game (16th), the return of Khris Middleton should provide the spark they need. Milwaukee is coming off a dominant 128-11 over Golden State and will look to keep the offense rolling on Thursday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks, averaging 31.1 points (4th in the NBA) and 11.3 rebounds (4th in the NBA) to go along with five assists. It’s been another dominant season from the two-time MVP, but free throws are still a big problem. Refs have started calling the 10-second violations, but he’s been a bit better in December, averaging 69.2% from the line. Giannis is supported once again by Khris Middleton (12.5 PPG, 4.3 APG), Jrue Holiday (19.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 7.4 APG), and Brook Lopez (14.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.9 BPG). Middleton appears to be feeling better from an ankle injury scare as he put up his first 20-point performance against the Warriors. The All-Star is still adjusting to being in this offense, but Tuesday was a promising sign that he’s close. Holiday is having a bounce-back season offensively, but he’s questionable for Tuesday as he recovers from an illness. Down-low, Lopez leads the NBA in blocks and makes 40% of his three-point attempts. If all four play Thursday, we expect another 120-point game from the Bucks.
Aside from their core of stars, the Bucks have one of the deeper benches in the NBA. Bobby Portis is one of the best sixth men in the league, with 14 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He’s playing 26 minutes per game and is critical for this team. The Bucks also have a talented pair of guards in Jevon Carter (8 PPG, 1.4 Steals) and Grayson Allen (11.1 PPG). Carter is a defensive star that has shown the ability to score when needed, while Allen is one of their top three-point threats that always plays well on the road. Keep an eye on Pat Connaughton (7 PPG, 3.6 RPG) off the bench. He’s back after missing significant time due to injury and is an elite bench scorer when healthy.
The Grizzlies are riding a six-game win streak and have now won eight of their last ten, vaulting them into second place in the West. They are a very similar team to the Bucks, as they are second in the NBA in rebounds per game (48.7), fourth in blocks (5.8), and third in opponent free throw percentage (45.1%). What’s more impressive is that they are averaging 115.5 points (7th in NBA) without their second-leading scorer, Desmond Bane. It’s the result of a deep team with many players that can score, but they’ll be tested against an elite defense on Thursday.
The Grizzlies are again led by Ja Morant, who is having another great season, averaging 37.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 1.2 steals. He missed their win against Atlanta and is listed as day-to-day but is expected to suit up on Thursday. With Bane still out, Jaren Jackson (18.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Dillon Brooks (17.7 PPG) have stepped up to fill the scoring void. Both have been on fire from three in December, with Jackson making 45.5% and Brooks hitting 39.5%.
Most of Memphis’ success over the last six games can be attributed to their bench play, led by point guard Tyus Jones (10.6 PPG, 4.6 APG). Jones has been on fire in December, making 46.4% of his threes and going for over twenty points and ten rebounds in both of his starts. Another player to watch is Brandon Clarke, averaging an impressive 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in December. When matching up with Milwaukee’s talented frontcourt, the Grizzles will use Santi Aldama (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1 BLG in December) and Steven Adams (8.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG in December). They are a solid defensive pairing that should help contain Giannis.
Free Pick: Bucks EVEN
We expect this to be a fantastic game, but we see the Bucks coming out on top. As well as Memphis has played, their opponents during their six-game win streak have a combined record of 60-79. They match up well with the Bucks, but we think the Bucks’ defense will have the edge due to the absence of Bane. Holiday and Carter are a potent defensive pairing that should give Ja fits, and the rebounding advantage the Grizzles have enjoyed should be limited by the Bucks’ frontcourt. We believe Middleton has returned to form and will build on his impressive performance against Golden State. This is arguably the best team in the NBA when Giannis, Middleton, Holiday, and Lopez are healthy. The Bucks have proven they can win in Memphis, and we believe that will continue on Thursday.
We’re taking the Bucks in this pick ’em game.