Welcome to the Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for tonight I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Season to Date:
ATS Picks: 19-13 (.594)
ATS Leans: 7-7-1 (.500)
Moneyline: 12-5 (.706)
Over/Under: 8-3 (.727)
12/27/18 NBA Betting Pick:
New York Knicks (9-26) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (23-10)
Over/Under Total: 228.0
Typically, projected scoring totals in excess of 220 are reserved for the high-flying Western Conference. The balance of offensive power in the NBA is tilted in that direction. Scoreboard-busting powerhouses like the Warriors, Kings, Lakers and Clippers make sure of that. However, the East boasts a couple of prolific squads in its own right. One of those is certainly the Bucks. Milwaukee actually comes into Thursday’s game leading the NBA in points per game (116.6). They also rank in the top 10 in team shooting percentage (47.3) and sport an even better 48.0 percent success rate on their home floor.
However, for today’s purposes, it’s also worth noting the Bucks’ offensive machine has been a bit more subdued of late. Milwaukee is averaging a much more modest 105.3 points per game over the last three. That’s partly the byproduct of a slight but notable drop in shooting percentage — the Bucks have drained 44.4 percent of their attempts during that span.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding Knicks have been much less proficient offensively on a consistent basis. New York ranks firmly in the bottom half of the NBA in points per game (108.2). That includes an even lower 107.6 points per road contest. And the Knicks have also seen even more of a downturn recently. New York’s 103.7 points per game over the last three is the seventh-lowest figure in the league over that span. Given those numbers, it isn’t surprising they’ve also struggled with their shooting over both the course of the season and in recent contests.
The Knicks own the third-lowest shooting percentage (43.7) in the NBA. That includes a 43.4 percent figure on the road — the second lowest in the league in away games. As alluded to earlier, the Knicks have particularly had a hard time finding the net recently. They’re shooting just 42.3 percent over their last three contests.
Those numbers in and of themselves don’t bode well for a high-scoring game Thursday. However, the prospect of an avalanche of points dampens further when considering how good the Bucks have been defensively. To begin with, Milwaukee may have finally figured the Knicks out after uncharacteristically yielding an average of 124.5 points to them over their first two meetings. The Bucks stymied New York on Christmas Day to the tune of 95 points and 36.1 percent shooting That included a 27.6 percent figure from three-point range.
Then, the Bucks have allowed the 10th-fewest points per game on the season (108.1). That includes an even stingier 106.5 per contest at Fiserv Forum. Plus, Milwaukee is yielding just 98.7 over their last three; in addition to the aforementioned impressive holiday effort versus New York, they also limited the Heat to 94 and the Celtics to a respectable 107. And three of the Bucks’ last four home games have come in under Thursday’s projected total.
Milwaukee is also allowing the lowest shooting percentage (43.3) on the season, including 37.5 percent over the aforementioned three-game period. Furthermore, they’ve limited opponents to a 32.7 percent success rate from three-point range on their home court — fourth-lowest figure in that category for any team at home.
Finally, consider some of the Knicks’ key pieces are struggling considerably with efficiency on the offensive end. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has particularly seen a downturn with his shot. Yes, he’s averaging a career-best and team-high 20.8 points per game. However, he’s draining just 39.1 percent of his attempts. That’s the second-worst figure of his career. Hardaway is also now considered questionable for the contest after missing Thursday morning’s shootaround with an illness.
Then, rookie Kevin Knox packs an abundance of potential. But at just 18 years of age, his shooting understandably remains a work in progress — Knox sports a pedestrian 38.1 percent success rate from the field through his first 28 games.
By the Numbers
The Knicks have come in under their projected total in half of the 20 games they’ve played on one days’ rest this season. New York has also gone under their projected total in just under half (48.1 percent) of their 27 conference games.
The Bucks have come in under their projected total in half of their 22 games after a win this season. Milwaukee has also gone under their projected total in 11 of 20 conference games (55.0 percent) and in half of the 18 games they’ve played with one days’ rest this season.
The Final Word
The two teams played a pair of high-scoring affairs earlier in the season, but they combined for just 204 points on Christmas Day. I see that type of grind-it-out affair unfolding again Thursday on the Bucks’ home floor, where they enjoy a significant advantage. That will be even more likely if Hardaway is forced to miss the contest. Milwaukee should have enough of a lead at some point in the fourth quarter to not have to press the issue to the extent that the robust projected total is exceeded.
The Pick: Under 228.0