Bucks vs. Bulls Top Picks for Thursday: Streaking Milwaukee to Perpetuate Chicago’s Misery

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Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts after his basket during a 119-106 Bucks win over the LA Clippers at Crypto.com Arena on February 10, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

NBA Pick: Bucks -7.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Bucks -7.5 (-110)
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Top sportsbooks have released their NBA odds for tonight’s game between Milwaukee and Chicago. These two teams appear to be heading in different directions: whereas the Bulls can’t find a way to win, the Bucks won’t stop winning.

I will explain why you should play both the spread and the total for this game also due to match-up-related reasons.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls

Thursday, February 16, 2023 – 07:30 PM EST at United Center

Chicago's Struggles 

NBA Oddsmakers are evidently unable to account for the mess that Chicago is in right now. Hence, the Bulls are suffering a five-game ATS losing streak. They also lost each of those five games straight-up.

Problems on Offense 

Most of Chicago's ongoing problems resolve on offense. A productive performance from its three-point shooting expert, shooting guard Zach LaVine, carried Chicago's scoring output to 113 points last night. Fellow guard Coby White also randomly had an amazing performance, making five of eight three-pointers.

While 113 points certainly aren't bad, it remains alarming to see what came before because it was not as if the entire team had rediscovered its groove offensively. It was just two players having great performances—White and LaVine accounted together for over half of their team's points.

Before last night the Bulls failed to exceed 91 points against the Magic and Cavaliers after they failed to score more than 105 points against the Nets and Grizzlies.

A New Turn?

Could last night's game possibly be a turning point for the Bulls? They had been allergic to attempting three-pointers—more allergic, statistically, than any other team. But they attempted 35 threes last night, which is almost seven more than they attempt on average.

Part of this phenomenon is surely a product of DeMar DeRozan's injury. The small forward is characteristically proficient in the mid-range spaces which Chicago's offense gladly attacks. But he has a Grade 1 thigh strain, according to an MRI that he took on Tuesday. So, he might miss today's game, just as he also missed last night's game.

Milwaukee's Perimeter Defense 

DeRozan's injury and Chicago's offensive problems should lead us to expect that last night's reliance on the three-point shooting was not a one-time thing. One might say that this reliance should be a one-time thing because the Bulls aren't terribly efficient from behind the arc—they rank middle-of-the-road in three-point percentage.

Especially since they might not be able to lean on as much mid-range scoring as they could achieve when DeRozan was fully healthy, we should expect the Bulls to see three-point shooting as a valuable source of offense that has helped them mend their scoring woes. But the Bucks' defense will make it hard for any team that is inclined to operate offensively along the perimeter.

To be exact, Milwaukee stands out as they:

  • Allow the 10th-lowest rate of wide-open three-point attempts
  • Allow the fifth-lowest rate of open three-point attempts
  • Are one of the better teams at limiting opposing three-point attempts altogether

Evidently, Milwaukee is attentive to the three-point line and is good at contesting opposing three-point shot attempts to make them harder to convert.

A Phenomenal Lineup

Among others, guards Jrue Holiday and Jevon Carter are characteristically physical guys who will be feisty and who will cling to their opposing ball-handler whom they will deny pulling up for a shot attempt. Milwaukee's active perimeter defenders will compel Bulls ball handlers to try to work inside.

Challenging well-sized Bucks center Brook Lopez is also far from easy. As measured by defensive rating, he is a solid rim protector, one who also benefits from the help side defense of perennial MVP candidate Giannis. Chicago's offense will resume its low-scoring tendencies because it won't figure out Milwaukee's well-rounded defense. 

Milwaukee's Offense Outlook

As long as Giannis is able to play—he is listed as 'probable' for tonight's game—then Milwaukee will have someone who can wreak havoc near the opponent's basket. But the Bucks will also want to score in other ways. Indeed, they attempt the fourth-most threes per game, with many of their attempts emanating from the devotion that Giannis' rim-attacking prowess coerces opposing defenses to develop toward stopping Milwaukee inside the arc.

Unlike Milwaukee's, though, Chicago's perimeter defense is porous. The Bulls allow the second-highest rate of open three-point attempts and the 10th-highest rate of wide-open ones.

Milwaukee's band of shooters—overall, the Bucks rank fourth in three-pointers made per game—will take advantage by using good spacing, especially, to generate favorable three-point looks against a defense that evidently has trouble even contesting them.

The Verdict 

For your NBA Picks, expect Milwaukee's offense to be more productive than Chicago's given the former's stronger perimeter defense and inside scoring abilities. For the reasons above, invest in the Bucks ATS, and also invest in the "under" in view of Milwaukee's prowess on defense and the extent to which it matches up well against the Bulls' offense.

WI locals interested in betting on the Bucks should check out the Wisconsin betting sites to find a reputable book to bet with.

NBA Pick: Bucks -7.5 (-110) at BetOnline

NBA Pick: Under 230 (-110) at BetOnline

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Under 230 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.