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The Milwaukee Bucks host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in a marquee matchup for the NBA. Milwaukee is riding a 13-game winning streak and has won its last three games by an average margin of over 36 points, while LA is coming off a dominant 20-point win against Portland. Friday marks the first time that Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo will go to head-to-head since last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bucks and Clippers have two of the three highest odds of winning the NBA Finals after the Los Angeles Lakers, so this could very well be a Finals preview. The two teams play a similar style of basketball that gives priority to their respective superstars. Antetokounmpo in player efficiency rating and is coming off a 35-point outing at Detroit. Leonard was held to a season-low 11 points against Portland on Tuesday night.
Clippers look to pull off road upsetThe Los Angeles Clippers are a rare underdog Friday night as they go into Fiserv Forum winners of nine of their last 10 games. Montrezl Harrell is coming off an extremely efficient performance in which scored 26 points on 11 of 12 shooting all off the bench. Paul George has scored 56 points over the last two games and looks to be in tip-top shape. Patrick Patterson scored 19 points against Portland on five 3-pointers.
Then, of course, there's Kawhi Leonard, who had a rare off night in Portland, connecting on just three of 15 field goal attempts. Perhaps head coach Doc Rivers will work Leonard into more practices after it was revealed that he and George have yet to practice together. There's only so much space to go around on the Clippers roster, and it would do them good to get their two top players in better coordination with one another. LA's glue guy is none other than Lou Williams, who has seven or more assists in each of the last four games.
Bucks look to stay hotThe Milwaukee Bucks have not lost a game since Nov. 8 (a road loss to Utah) and if they win Friday they'll likely keep their winning streak going until a Dec. 19 matchup with the Lakers, if not longer. Milwaukee does all the little things right. They lead the Clippers in rebounding margin by nearly three boards a game, a testament to their effort on the glass. The Bucks also have the top field goal percentage in the NBA and are tied with Denver for the highest defensive rating. If there's a weakness for this team, it's their slate of competition in a watered down Central Division.
The success starts with Antetokounmpo and trickles down the rest of the roster. George Hill has the sixth-best assist-to-turnover ratio (4.3) while fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe has tallied 10 assists in two of the team's last five games. Those two guys embody unselfishness and the rest of the team benefits from it. Khris Middleton is a consistent threat to score around 15 points or more a game and has carried some of the load up front with Brook Lopez recovering from a back injury.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on oddsshark, are:
- Bucks are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games against an opponent in the Western conference.
- Clippers are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games against Milwaukee.
- Clippers are 4-2 ATS in their last six games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I was tempted to go with Milwaukee until I saw LA getting that extra half point. The Clippers are playing some of their best basketball of late with Paul George finally figuring out his role in the rotation. Montrezl Harrell has looked stellar the last week as well. Milwaukee has beaten up on a lot of mediocre teams over its long winning streak and could be a little shell shocked having to play against an actual Finals contender. I expect LA to cover in very close one.
Prediction: LA Clippers +3.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Neither team's totals have gone over 232 in recent games with the exception of LA's 150-125 win over Washington, so why am I picking the over here? Well for one, the total has gone over in five of the Clippers last five games when playing on the road against Milwaukee and none of those teams had Kawhi Leonard of Paul George. The total has gone over in nine of Milwaukee's last 13 games against an opponent in the Pacific Division as well. These are two of the highest scoring teams in the NBA (in Milwaukee's case, the highest) and I expect an offensive show from both groups on Friday.
Prediction: Over 232