Bucks at Raptors PreviewEditor's Note: NBA Totals (+3440) leader has hit his last four guaranteed plays and is on a 88-54 totals run. Don't miss out on more NBA winners from him on VegasInsider.com this season. Click for Picks!
By Tony Mejia Straight Up (SU), Against the Spread (ATS)
Betting Odds BreakdownThe Bucks were installed as a 1.5-point road favorite. The total opened at 231.
Eye TestThe Bucks aren’t going to break the Warriors’ 73-9 record, but they remain on pace for 70 wins provided they remain healthy. They’ve owned the league’s top record for most of the season and own a 16-game lead on second-place Indiana in the Central, which means they should clinch a second straight division title by mid-March. They’ve already broken one of 2015-16 Golden State’s records in qualifying for the postseason sooner than any team in league history. The last time Milwaukee won consecutive Central titles occurred in 1985-86, part of a seven-season run that produced three conference final appearances but no trips to the Finals. The Bucks are still looking to play for a championship for the first time since 1974 and are currently -225 to win the East at Westgate. They were just -200 last week and even money around Christmas. Their odds to win a championship are 5-to-2 (+250) after being +275 last week. Giannis Antetokounmpo is now -1000 to to win his second straight MVP. He was -600 at Westgate prior to their most recent update. The Bucks lead the NBA in scoring (120.0) and scoring margin (+12.2). They’ve won 17 of their last 19 games.
The Raptors were written off to open the season as a team likely to finish third in their own division. They came in at 25-to-1 to win the Eastern Conference and 100-to-1 to win the NBA title at Westgate SuperBook. Toronto opened 7-2 and closed November with a 14-4 mark. They’ve been among the Atlantic Division leaders all season and currently lead it by 1.5 games over the Celtics, ranking second behind the Bucks in the East. The Raptors are now down to 13-to-2 (+650) from 10-to-1 earlier this month to repeat as East champs and is still at a robust 25-to-1 to win it all. The Raptors are third in the NBA in scoring margin (+7.2) behind the Bucks and Lakers.
Current FormMilwaukee went 11-2 in January and has won 22 of its last 25 since losing on Christmas Day. Antetokounmpo sat out the Feb. 12 loss to the Pacers following the birth of his child. The last game the Bucks lost that the “Greek Freak” played in came on Jan. 31 against the Nuggets, who rallied from a halftime deficit and caught the Bucks flat coming out of the break. Antetokounmpo wrestled with foul trouble throughout Monday night’s OT win in Washington, fouling out just before the end of regulation. Khris Middleton finished with a team-high 40 points to help make up for Antetokounmpo playing just under 25 minutes. Brook Lopez rested a sore back to ensure he’d be spry for this one, so Milwaukee should be fresh. The Bucks’ previous 11 victories prior to the one in D.C. all came by double-digits. Reserve forward Kyle Korver has missed the past few games with a back injury.
Toronto went 12-3 in January and has won seven of eight this month, falling only in Brooklyn just before the All-Star break in a game where they looked spent and played like it. Siakam has led the Raps in scoring in three of the past four, topping 30-plus twice. After crushing the Suns 118-101 last Friday night, the Raptors set a franchise-record for margin of victory in a 127-81 rout of the Pacers. They’ve won 17 of 18 (12-6 ATS) games and join Boston as the only teams in the NBA that can say they have wins in nine of their last 10 games. Eleven of those victories have come by at least nine points. Center Marc Gasol has been ruled out with a hamstring injury and shooting guard Norman Powell remains sidelined by a finger injury. Both are getting close to a return, while wing Patrick McCaw could return from an illness that kept him out the other night.
Head-to-HeadThe Bucks and Raptors met in last season’s conference finals and have played once already this season back on Nov. 2. Toronto eliminated Milwaukee in six games after losing the season series 3-1, but with Kawhi Leonard no longer around to help frustrate Antetokounmpo, it wouldn’t mind getting on the board at home against the team it will have to get through to pull off an unlikely repeat bid come June. The Bucks won 115-105 nearly four months ago outrebounding the Raps 51-42 in overcoming Kyle Lowry’s 36 points. Antetokounmpo finished with 36 points, 15 boards and eight assists in the victory. Gasol led Toronto with 12 boards in the loss and was a catalyst in last year’s playoff series, playing a huge role in two of its wins after helping dig an 0-2 hole by shooting 3-for-20 over the first two games.
Inside the Stats (Away/Home)Points Per Game:
Milwaukee 120.0 (118.5)
Toronto 113.3 (117.2)
Milwaukee 107.8 (107.5)
Toronto 106.1 (107.5)
Away-Home Records-- Milwaukee 23-5 SU, 16-12 ATS
-- Toronto 23-7 SU, 19-11 ATS
Situational (Eastern Conference Matchup)The Bucks’ 31-4 mark against East foes is the best in the conference. Milwaukee has won 13 of 14 against since losing on Christmas to Philadelphia, which is the last time it lost to a conference opponent with Antetokounmpo in the lineup. He was nursing a back injury in that game.
The Raptors’ 30-8 mark against East foes is second-best in the conference by a three-game margin over the Celtics. It is 2.5 games behind the Bucks’ pace. Toronto has an 8-game winning streak at Scotiabank Arena against Eastern Conference opposition, last losing on Christmas day to Boston. They’ve won nine straight home games overall, last losing on Jan. 7. They’ve averaged 125.1 points during the run, shooting over 41 percent from 3-point range.
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Betcha Didn’t KnowThe Bucks will be playing their third game in four nights and working on the second night of a back-to-back as they take the court for this East showdown. They excelled in that situation to open November and beat the Raps in their only meeting despite winning in Orlando the previous night after losing in Boston two nights earlier. In all, Milwaukee is a perfect 6-0 in this situation, beating the Blazers twice while feasting the Cavs, Hornets and Pacers in addition to its win over Indiana. Only Portland has come within single-digits, doing so at Fiserv Forum. The Bucks’ margin of victory in finishing up a back-to-back while playing for the third time in four nights is 20.8 points.
NBA Expert Picks – Tony MejiaMilwaukee nearly fumbled away Monday’s game in D.C. looking ahead to this one and views this as a statement game. The Raptors have been crushing teams of late, holding opponents to 94.3 points over their last three games. They’ve largely feasted on inferior competition throughout most of this run, which makes this a major test made harder by the fact Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foul trouble should have him feeling frisky for this one. The Bucks have dominated in this situation, coming in 6-0 when closing out a back-to-back on the third game in four nights. Ride the visitors.
Best Bet: Bucks
VI Prediction ToolThe VegasInsider.com Prediction resource gives an edge to either team in eight specific categories listed above and there are instances where both clubs receive a positive edge (). Depending on how you weigh the below factors could provide more reason to fade or follow those teams in your wagers.
|VI Edge Predictions|
Total Talk (Over-Under)Milwaukee: 28-27-2 (Road, 14-13-1 Under)
Toronto: 30-26-1 (Home, 17-13 Over)
The ‘over’ is 3-0 through Milwaukee’s last three road contests.
The ‘under’ is 3-0 through Toronto’s last three games on the heels of the high side connecting on five straight occasions.
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