- Pelicans are 3-3 since Zion Williamson returned to the lineup
- Bucks have won 10 of last 11 games
- Bucks beat Pelicans 127-112 in Milwaukee on December 11
|Bucks||-6 (-110)||-250||Over 246 (-110)|
|Pelicans||+6 (-110)||+210||Under 246 (-110)|
The NBA put just 4 games on Tuesday night’s schedule following Monday’s 10-game bonanza. 2 teams that weren’t in action last night will square off in the Big Easy when the Bucks visit the Pelicans in New Orleans. This is widely expected to be the most entertaining game of the night. You can look no further than the massive 246 over/under to know what kind of game this should be.
The Bucks and Pelicans both rank in the top-4 in the league in pace. The Bucks rank second in the league in offense and first in defense, which is impressive. New Orleans is a team that has underwhelmed for most of the season, but they have looked quite a bit more frisky since Zion Williamson returned from his knee injury a couple of weeks ago.
The Bucks, who have the league’s second-best road record on the season at 19-4, are listed as 6-point favorites in NOLA on Tuesday night.
Giannis’ Second Straight MVP Season
At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Giannis Antetokounmpo winning NBA MVP. Giannis breezed his way to the award last year when he led the Bucks to the league’s best record, and what he’s accomplished so far this season has been even more impressive. The Greek Freak has upped his scoring average to 30 points per game while averaging over 13 rebounds and nearly 6 assists. For good measure, he’s also averaging better than a steal and a block.
Giannis still isn’t exactly Steph Curry when it comes to marksmanship from 3-point range, but he doesn’t need to be. As long as he can be adequate in that department, there’s really no stopping him. Antetokounmpo is shooting just over 31 percent from long range so far this season. That’s still below average, but it’s also the best mark of his career. It’s quite the improvement over his 3P% of around 25 percent from last year.
With the Bucks once again cruising toward the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s going to take quite the collapse for anyone other than Giannis to win the award. BetOnline now has Antetokounmpo as a -300 favorite to win MVP for the second consecutive year. Around a month ago at this time, you could still get Giannis at plus-money. Here’s hoping you took advantage of those odd while they were still available. LeBron James (+500), James Harden (+600), Luka Doncic (+600) and Anthony Davis (+1800) seem unlikely to give Giannis a real run for his money at this point.
Milwaukee has a point differential of plus-12.4 so far this season, which is reaching a historic level. The Celtics (plus-7.2) rank a distant second in that department. Last year’s Bucks team that won 60 games had a point differential of “just” plus-8.8. The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, who won an NBA record 73 games, had a point differential of plus-10.8, for comparison’s sake.
Zion for Rookie of the Year?
Zion has missed nearly half of the season due to injury, which will likely take him out of serious consideration when it comes to winning Rookie of the Year. Memphis’ Ja Morant has put up strong numbers while leading the Grizzlies into a playoff spot at the time of this writing. Memphis, who was widely expected to be one of the league’s worst teams this season, is sitting at 25-25 and in eighth in the West.
As a result, Williamson winning Rookie of the Year is unlikely unless Morant goes down with a long-term injury of his own. Regardless, what Zion has been able to accomplish through his first 6 games is pretty impressive. The former No. 1 overall pick has averaged just 26.7 minutes per game as the Pels continue to ease him into action. Even in limited playing time, Williamson is averaging 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting better than 61 percent from the field. His free throw shooting (and shooting range in general) remains a work-in-progress, but Williamson has looked quite comfortable asserting his will at the game’s highest level.
If Williamson can help the Pelicans reach the playoffs despite having been under .500 for most of the season, his Rookie of the Year case will get some help. As it stands today, though, Morant is an even bigger favorite to win ROY than Antetokounmpo is to win MVP. BetOnline has Morant at -400 to claim the top rookie prize, followed by Williamson (+300), Miami’s Kendrick Nunn (+1200) and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (+1200).
With Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors comprising the starting unit, the Pelicans clearly have enough talent to nab a playoff spot. Zion missing the first half of the season may well have doomed their hopes of doing so, but New Orleans should be one of the more fun teams to watch as the campaign winds to a close.
The 246 total matches the Rockets-Pelicans total we saw over the weekend. That was the largest total I’ve seen all year long, and the under wound up hitting in Houston’s 117-109 victory. I’d be inclined to bet the under again on this game, but I’m not comfortable enough doing so to make that the pick.
Instead, I’ll take advantage of the short odds you can get on a Bucks team that has been a double-digit favorite seemingly every single night. The Pelicans pose a tougher threat than they did earlier this season, but Milwaukee should be coming into this game at nearly full strength. Backup guard George Hill, who is out, is the only player whose status seems to be in doubt for the Bucks.
Even though they’re typically massive favorites, Milwaukee has still gone a solid 27-22 against the spread so far this season. The Pelicans, meanwhile, are 25-23-2 ATS. I’ll take the Bucks to cover the relatively conservative 6-point spread tonight. New Orleans has come capable defensive wings, but I don’t see anyone capable of slowing down Antetokounmpo.
Bet Milwaukee to cover.