Let’s see if we can make it two in a row after bouncing back yesterday with the Pacers. Today’s NBA card has some interesting matchups, and as has been the case all week, we have to take into account who will be active on each roster. Today I’ve got my eye on the Dallas Mavericks, who are headed to Milwaukee to duel with the Bucks.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Friday, January 15, 2021 – 07:30 PM EST at Fiserv Forum
Mavs Defense Has Been Impressive
It's obvious that Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA, and he will be an MVP candidate several times in his career as long as he can stay healthy. In my opinion, Rick Carlisle is easily one of the best coaches in the league, able to consistently maximize the talent of his roster. Last season, the Mavs finished with the number one overall offensive rating in the league. So, it stands to reason that for them to take that next step and challenge for a Western Conference title, they would need to improve on defense.
Nobody could have predicted that this team would make the leap on defense from 18th to 2nd, which is where they sit at the moment. It's definitely too early to call them a defensive team, but it is early enough to know that once their offense gets in gear (they are way off last year's pace, currently 16th) they will be a force to be reckoned with. That is why the line for this game seems really high to me. Especially once it went over 6 points, it did in fact open at -6 but has been bet up to -7.5. I do understand why, though. Dallas is extremely short-handed, and those absences could be a problem against the mighty Bucks.
Except, in my opinion, the Bucks haven't looked like their old selves. As with Dallas, it is too early to make any assumptions about Milwaukee, but it is clear they are currently not as strong as last year's team. I do think they probably win this game with all of the players that Dallas is missing, but you're asking them to win by a margin when they've only been doing that against the bottom feeders, and barely at that.
Bucks Are Still Getting Respect for Past Accomplishments
I don't think the Bucks finish with the best regular-season record in the league, something they've done for two straight years. Honestly, it has served well in the playoffs anyway, and maybe head coach Mike Budenholzer is aware that this regular season needs to be spent fine-tuning things for the upcoming playoffs where it has to be Finals or bust for this group.
The other thing is, this team has had a significant roster turnover, although their core of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton is still intact. Their bench is much weaker, in my opinion, and so is their starting 5, with Donte DiVincenzo moving from a bench role into the starting lineup. Again this not a knock on DiVincenzo, who I think will continue to improve. However, he just isn't as good right now as the veteran Wesley Matthews, who has a ton of experience. In the end, he's probably an upgrade, but it's just another moving part.
As for this specific game, I think that the most I could lay with Milwaukee for my NBA picks is the opening line of -6. At -7.5, I have to clean Dallas with their newfound defense. Dallas has won and covered in their last four, and I think they can keep things close enough in this spot where they cover.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.