San Antonio Spurs vs Milwaukee Bucks

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Two surging teams will square off on Saturday night when the Milwaukee Bucks host the San Antonio Spurs. Milwaukee has won five straight games including a 109-105 overtime triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers as a six-point road favorite on Wednesday to improve to 26-14, good for third in the East. San Antonio is also in playoff position at 21-16 thanks to a three-game winning streak, including a 116-110 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday as a five-point favorite.

The Spurs lead the all-time series 50-41, including pulling off a 126-104 home win in January of last season in the most recent meeting.

Keldon Johnson goes off against Cleveland

The Spurs have been playing well since the All-Star break, and dominated Cleveland defensively in the first half of Friday night’s road game to pick up another win. Cleveland never led in the game as San Antonio built a 54-42 advantage at halftime and opened the third quarter on an 11-1 spurt that put things out of reach even with the Cavaliers piling up 44 points in the fourth.

Keldon Johnson had one of the best individual games for any player this season, racking up 23 points, 21 rebounds and two blocks. The Spurs held Cleveland to 43.8% shooting from the floor including 7/27 from three, and Johnson racked up 11 offensive rebounds to help San Antonio on the other end.

“I have to keep going, keep pushing, can’t be satisfied,” said Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-6, to the Associated Press. “You’ve just got to fight, man. You’ve got to want it every play, got to go get it. I just try to be myself — Keldon Johnson — out there.”

San Antonio has a matching record against the spread at 21-16, and has covered in four of its last five games with the only defeat coming against first-place Philadelphia. Overs are just 15-22 for the Spurs, but the Cleveland game did manage to go over the betting total to snap a streak of two straight unders.

The Spurs are a below average scoring offense at 110.1 points per game on 50.4% shooting from two and 36.1% shooting from three. Opponents are putting the same average of 110.1 points per game to put San Antonio at eighth in scoring defense on shooting splits of 52% from two and 37.7% from beyond the arc.

DeMar DeRozan is having a strong season with 20.3 points and 7.3 assists per game on 49% shooting from the floor to lead the Spurs. Dejounte Murray has added 15.6 points, seven rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in the best season of his young career.

The Spurs have agreed to cut ties with seven-time All Star center LaMarcus Aldridge after he averaged 13.7 points across 18 games this year and will begin looking for trade options. Forward Keita Bates-Diop is dealing with a hamstring injury and is questionable.

Milwaukee beats first place team on the road

The Bucks are quickly climbing in the East standings and are now just 1.5 games back of the top spot after taking down Philadelphia in overtime on Wednesday night. Milwaukee had a miserable shooting first half missing 16 of 17 three-point attempts en route to a 45-31 deficit and the Bucks still trailed by19 in the second, but rallied to lead 91-84 in the final 50 seconds, only for Furkan Korkmaz to hit a buzzer beater to force overtime. Giannis Antetokounmpo then took over with 10 points in the extra period to send the Bucks to their 10th win in 11 games.

It was another dominant game for Antetokounmpo, who led the Bucks with 32 points and 15 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday added 19 points and six assists. Milwaukee won behind a stout defensive effort, holding the 76ers to 39.4% from the field with 20 turnovers.

The Bucks haven’t been nearly as sharp against the spread at 19-21, and they have failed to cover in four of their last six games despite being hot straight up. Overs are 23-16-1 for the Bucks, although not even overtime could help Wednesday’s game avoid going under the betting total.

Milwaukee once again has one of the NBA’s best offenses, ranking second in scoring at 119.5 points per game on shooing splits of 55.4% from two and 38.6% from three, both of which rank sixth best in the league. The defense is coming along of late and is now averaging 112.5 points per game with opponents shooting 59.9% from two and 37.4% from three.

Antetokounmpo is right in line with the stats from his previous two MVP seasons at 29.1 points 11.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game on 56.3% shooting from the field. Khris Middleton is having another strong season as well with 20.2 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooing 41.6% from three.

The Bucks swung a trade with the Houston Rockets for P.J. Tucker earlier in the week, and he is expected to make his debut on Saturday. Rotation guard D.J. Augustin and D.J. Wilson are headed to Houston in the deal. Forward Jordan Nwora is also out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet
Rating:

While the Spurs are playing well at the moment, their recent stretch hasn’t come against the best competition, and this is a tough spot coming off a back-to-back against one of the best teams in the  NBA. Milwaukee is starting to look like the dominant team we saw during the regular season last season, and just has too much scoring for the Spurs to keep up with.

As impressive as it is that the Spurs are in playoff position at the moment, it’s not due to the offense, which is currently 19th in rating and has very little scoring depth beyond DeRozan, Murray and Johnson at the moment. The Bucks have several reliable shooters on the other side, and as sound as the San Antonio defense has been, opponents have been able to exploit it on the perimeter which is not ideal heading into this matchup.

Defensive rebounding is a big concern in this particular matchup, as the Spurs are second-worst in the NBA at preventing second chances for the opponent, and giving Milwaukee extra opportunities usually doesn’t work out well. Look for the Bucks to keep rolling against a Spurs team in the middle of a tiring road trip.

Prediction:
Bucks -9.5

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Full-Game Total Pick
Rating:

The Spurs defense is maintaining an impressive level, as it checks in at eighth in both scoring and rating. There are at least a few capable defenders in the frontcourt to get in Antetokounmpo’s way and hold Milwaukee beneath its season averages, and San Antonio having the best free throw rate allowed in the NBA will help.

After ranking below average heading into the All-Star break, the Milwaukee defense is now up to ninth in rating, nearly matching the mark of the offense, and the addition of an excellent individual defender in Tucker will only help that. With the concerning shooting slump Milwaukee had the other night, it’s hard to trust the Bucks to get to their usual mark of 120 plus points, and a matchup with a shaky Spurs offense will go under.

Prediction:
Under 231.5