This is a tough spot for the Bucks, who have laughed in the face of danger all season with the best record in the NBA at 49-8. Milwaukee is coming off a 137-134 overtime win over the Wizards on Monday and will be traveling to Toronto overnight for this important second game of a back-to-back.
The Raptors are rested and rolling after a 127-81 blowout win over the Pacers on Sunday. Toronto has won two straight since having their 15-game winning streak snapped in the final game before the All-Star break. The defending champs have the third-best record in the NBA, two games behind the Lakers and seven back of the Bucks.
These two teams feature the top two field goal percentage defenses in the NBA which have come to the forefront early in games this season, especially for the Bucks. The first quarter Under is 17-9-1 in Milwaukee road games this season. It’s a good bet this high-profile game will get off to a slow start.
Pick: First Quarter Under 56.5
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Toronto is the deepest team in the NBA and can bring players like Serge Ibaka and Terence Davis off the bench in a relentless rotation for head coach Nick Nurse. Davis scored in double figures for the second straight game with 13 points in 24 minutes on Sunday against Indiana.
He has now logged 1,003 minutes and is just the fourth undrafted rookie to play at least 1,000 minutes in a season for Toronto (Jose Calderon, Jorge Garabajosa, Jamario Moon).
That depth is a big reason for Toronto’s success this season and it will likely come in handy on Tuesday against a weary Milwaukee team playing in the second game of a back-to-back. The Raptors are 18-12 ATS in the first half at home this season. The more rested team will get off to the faster start in this potential playoff showdown.
Pick: Raptors First-Half Moneyline (-104)
The Raptors solved the dilemma of stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo in last year’s East Finals by throwing waves of defenders at him, the primary one being Kawhi Leonard. Giannis is coming off a tough game having fouled out with 1:33 left in regulation against the Wizards after collecting 22 points and 14 boards but also committing eight turnovers.
Brook Lopez continues to nurse an ailing back and did not play against Washington. If Lopez sits Tuesday, expect more minutes in the middle for Giannis. The odds on favorite to win league MVP has recorded at least 14 boards in 10 straight games and is a good bet to exceed that total again, on Tuesday.
Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo Over 13.5 Rebounds (-128)
Milwaukee runs their offense at the fastest pace in the NBA and has the third-best offensive rating in the league. Toronto’s defense is well equipped to keep the Bucks from running and has held two of its last three opponents to less than 100 points. The Under is 3-0 in the last three games for the Raptors.
The total has been a streaky bet for Milwaukee this season, who has cashed four of its last five games to the Over after a stretch of three straight Unders. This total is slightly inflated because of Milwaukee’s offensive prowess. The playoff atmosphere of this game will have an effect on both offenses down the stretch.
Pick: Under 231.5
The Wizards erased a 17-point deficit against Milwaukee on Monday and even took a brief lead with 1:01 to play before eventually succumbing in overtime to the Giannis-less Bucks. Khris Middleton dropped 40 and scored the final nine points of the game to carry Milwaukee across the finish line.
The shaky second-half performance against Washington could have been the Bucks looking ahead to Tuesday’s playoff rematch in Toronto or a shot across the bow for some regression. We think the latter is possible as Milwaukee has not yet suffered a significant losing stretch this season.
Toronto has over-achieved as many expected them to fade without Kawhi Leonard in tow. In the absence of the Finals MVP, they have found second-life as one of the deepest and most disciplined teams in the league. This will be the first of three matchups between these two contenders over the final 25 games of the regular season. The Raptors are rested and the stronger bet to take game one of this best-of-three.
Pick: Raptors +1.5