Bucks at Pacers
Milwaukee at Indiana clearly looks like one of the biggest mismatches of the 2013-14 regular season. The Bucks have the NBA's worst record and the Pacers the best (and No. 1 in point differential). Milwaukee has just five road wins all season while Indiana is an NBA-best 27-3 at home.
The Bucks (23-33 ATS, 30-26 O/U at sportsbooks) are coming off perhaps their best game of the season, a 130-110 victory in Philadelphia on Monday night. It was by far Milwaukee's highest-scoring game of the season and was its first road victory since New Year's Eve. The Bucks led the Sixers 73-44 at the half, Milwaukee's highest-scoring half since early in the 2009 season. O.J. Mayo has been largely a bust for the Bucks but had 25 points off the bench and was 7-for-9 from 3-point range. It was his first 20-point game since Jan. 4.
Milwaukee on Wednesday bought out veteran Caron Butler, freeing him to sign with a contender by Saturday and be eligible for a postseason roster presuming he clears waivers. Considering Butler is earning $8 million this season, he will. Look for the Miami Heat to go after Butler in a big way, and he's likely to sign with his first NBA team. Butler averages 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per night. The Bucks don't need him and can give extra minutes to rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Indiana's lead over Miami in the East is down to two games. The Pacers (33-22-1 ATS, 24-30-2 O/U) have won two straight and unveiled their big trade acquisition, Evan Turner, in Tuesday's 118-98 blowout of the visiting Lakers. Turner had 13 points in 26 minutes off the bench as the Pacers had seven players in double figures. The Indiana bench scored a season-high 50 points.
The Pacers have had little trouble in two wins over Milwaukee this season. On Nov. 15 in Indianapolis, the Pacers rolled 104-77 as a 14-point favorite for sports bettors, Indiana's second-biggest spread of the season. Roy Hibbert dominated with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. That improved the Pacers to 9-0 on the season but they lost the next night in Chicago. Last Saturday in Milwaukee, the Pacers won 111-100 as 12-point favorites on NBA odds. Indiana led by as many as 22 in the first half, but the Bucks battled back and largely hung around to cover. Paul George and David West combined for 62 points. Brandon Knight led Milwaukee with 30.
NBA free picks: Pacers -14.5 and under 194.5 on NBA odds. Indiana has covered four straight at home in this series and the under has hit in five of the past six there.
Wizards at Raptors
It's a potential first-round playoff preview Thursday in Toronto when the Raptors host Washington. Neither team has made the postseason since 2007-08, but Toronto seems a sure thing sitting third in the East and nine games ahead No. 9 Detroit. Washington is No. 5 and six games ahead of the Pistons.
The Wizards (31-25-1 ATS, 31-26 O/U at sportsbooks) suffered a huge injury in Sunday's 96-83 win at Cleveland as big man Nene went down with a knee. Washington did get good news in that it was only a sprained MCL and not the torn ACL the team feared, but the Brazilian is still out six weeks, which could mean the rest of the regular season. Washington is a vastly better defensive team with Nene in the post and had been 1-6 without the injury-prone Nene this season before winning 115-106 on Tuesday night against Orlando. Hard to read much from that considering it was the Magic's 16th straight road loss. It should be noted Washington, which won its fourth straight, was outrebounded by nine and that Orlando shot 50 percent from the field. However, the Wizards had four players score at least 20 points for the first time since 2010, led by John Wall's 27. Trevor Booker moved into the starting lineup for Nene and he had three points and four turnovers in 30 minutes.
The Raptors (34-22-1 ATS, 29-28 O/U) have won three straight and six of seven, last seen winning 99-93 in Cleveland on Tuesday night. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 33 points and stole a Cavs pass with 32 seconds left and the Raptors up three. He was fouled and hit two free throws to help seal it. Frankly, Toronto should have won that game with the Cavs missing three regulars in Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles.
Toronto is going for the season sweep in this one and the Raptors have covered the first three, winning each by at least eight points and holding Washington under 94 points in all of them. The teams last played Feb. 18 in D.C., a 103-93 Raptors win as 2.5-point underdogs for sports bettors. Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry is averaging 18.3 points and 10.0 assists vs. Washington this season. Wall is averaging 23.3 points against Toronto but Bradley Beal only 12.7.
NBA free picks: Toronto -4.5 and the under 197 on NBA odds. The Raptors have covered six of the past seven meetings in this series and the under is 4-0 in the past four. Nene's absence will be felt here.