Bucks vs. Mavericks Odds
|Moneyline||-122 / +100|
|Time||Thursday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings|
The future of the NBA is in great hands. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic will likely lead the next generation forward, and indeed they already are. Giannis is a two-time defending MVP, and it certainly looks like Luka could join him as such some day.
That’s the matchup on the slate tonight — at least that’s the hopeful matchup.
Unfortunately, we’ve hit the dregs of the regular season, and it’s anyone’s guess who will be available for this game. Antetokounmpo has sat the last two games, and Coach Budenholzer noted that the Bucks would “see how he feels in the next day or so,” but the opening line and props would suggest Giannis may sit again. The Mavs just played Wednesday night, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kristaps Porzingis or even Doncic sit this one out too.
How do we play an angle on this game without knowing who will be playing?
The Bucks are actually 3-2 without Antetokounmpo this season, though they’re only 1-3-1 against the spread without their MVP. The Bucks tend to get off to a quick start without Giannis. They’ve averaged a +5.8 first quarter margin without Antetokounmpo, outscoring opponents by an average of 31.4 to 25.6 points.
But that’s over five games, so it probably doesn’t tell us much. And before you get excited about the positive record, know that the wins have come against the Cavs, Pacers and Kings with losses to the Knicks and Warriors — not exactly a murderer’s row.
Milwaukee is 32-18 overall and seems to be settling in to the East 3-seed, especially as Antetokounmpo continues to miss time. The Bucks offense has dropped out of the top five in Offensive Efficiency, per Basketball Reference, but Milwaukee is still top 10 in both offense and defense. The Bucks continue to bomb threes and dominate the glass.
We know these Bucks by now, but we don’t know them as well without Giannis Antetokounmpo, and it would be fair to suggest that the Mavericks are the best team Milwaukee would have faced without Giannis this season… that is, if Dallas’ stars play.
The Mavericks have picked up the pace after a slow start to the season. After starting 8-13, Dallas has gone 20-9 since, with the metrics of a top-10 or -12 clear playoff team since the start of February.
The Mavs had won five straight before losing an ugly one to the Rockets on Wednesday night, and now they’re playing again one night later. Kristaps Porzingis played but struggled against Houston after sitting out the previous two games.
Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Burke also missed out and appear to be in question here, pushing players like Nicolo Melli into bigger-than-expected roles. If Porzingis or Doncic miss too, that will only exacerbate the problem. It would likely mean significant minutes for Dwight Powell and perhaps even rookies Josh Green and Nate Hinton.
The Mavericks are 9-9 this season without Porzingis on the court, both straight up and ATS. It’s true that KP hasn’t been at his best much of the season, but Dallas hasn’t done well without its second star either way. Without Doncic, the Mavs are an ugly 1-4 both SU and ATS, scoring just 100.0 PPG. Suffice to say you should lay the points and pay what you need to for the Bucks if it turns out Doncic does sit.
Dallas’s strength comes on offense, as the team hunts and finds high quality shots with good success. That’s mostly Doncic, of course. The Mavs bomb plenty of threes too, and they’re especially effective inside the arc. They’re not a particularly good rebounding team, so that could be one clear Milwaukee advantage.
If Giannis does play, Dorian Finney-Smith probably gets the first crack defensively, but it’s fair to say that Dallas’ defense probably isn’t going to win this game for them. The Mavs will have to hit their threes and win a track meet if the Bucks are at full strength, but that’s kind of what Dallas does.
As of late Wednesday night, most books have yet to post a line for this game as we await news on Antetokounmpo and the Dallas stars. That makes it pretty difficult to pick a side.
If Doncic sits, I’ll look to play Milwaukee, even without Giannis. If Luka is playing but Giannis is out, this game feels like mostly a coin flip, just as it’s being presented.
If I had to guess on any one of the three stars right now, I’d guess that we won’t see Antetokounmpo, and that’s why I’m looking to play a props angle here. Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday has had some huge lines in the past couple weeks with Giannis sidelined. Check out these numbers:
- vs. Indiana: 28 points, 5 rebounds, 14 assists
- vs. Sacramento: 33 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists
- vs. Golden State: 29 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists
Without Antetokounmpo, Holiday has been putting up superstar numbers. In those three games, he’s averaging 30 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists. Those are MVP-type numbers, and they’re enough to push me toward finding a good Holiday over here.
We’ve got some options at FanDuel. And while we’re here, the fact that FanDuel is listing player props for everyone at Milwaukee except Giannis is another pretty good sign that Antetokounmpo is likely to sit. Holiday’s points line opens at 22.5 and his assists are at 6.5, both already getting enough juice that the line could easily rise by tip. Holiday has cleared that points line with ease in each of these three recent games and gone over the assists line twice.
I’ll look to play the combo over 29.5 points + assists for Jrue Holiday, currently at -122. Holiday is averaging 40.0 points + assists in these three games and has nearly topped that number on points alone in each of them. It’s a low enough line that he’ll have a shot to get there against a poor Dallas defense, even if Antetokounmpo does end up playing.
If you’d like to play Holiday a bit more aggressively, you can play him at 10+ assists at +340 or at 12+ at +960. Recent history would suggest that’s far too much juice if Giannis sits. You can also play Holiday at 30+ points at +330. Remember, he’s averaging 30 PPG these last three games without Giannis. I wouldn’t exactly expect a 30-10 game from Holiday, but if you decide to parlay those results at nearly +1800 odds, is there a better than 5% chance of hitting? It sure feels like it.
Stay away from either side in this game and hope this recent Holiday hot stretch keeps up. Find your comfort spot and let’s hope Giannis takes the night off and gives Jrue a big line.
Pick: Jrue Holiday over 29.5 points + assists, or play a more aggressive Holiday over
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