76ers vs. Bucks Preview: Does Milwaukee Have Edge at Home?

Action Network NBA analyst Joe Dellera previews how to bet Thursday's matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.

76ers vs. Bucks Odds

76ers Odds +6
Bucks Odds -6
Over/Under 222.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Philadelphia 76ers head to Milwaukee to take on the reigning champion Bucks in a primetime showdown leading into the All-Star Break. Entering Thursday’s game, the Sixers and Bucks are one game apart in the Eastern Conference standings.

Which team has the edge in this nationally televised game? Let’s take a look at how both side match up.

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76ers Lacking Depth Since Trade

The 76ers made a splash at the trade deadline when they sent Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and picks to the Nets for James Harden. This move dramatically changed the structure and composition of their team.

At the moment, they are without Harden as he recovers from a hamstring injury and it’s easy to see how impactful Curry and Drummond were for this team’s depth after the 76ers were absolutely hosed by Boston 135-87 on Tuesday night.

Joel Embiid is a world wrecker, an absolutely dominant presence in the paint and a worthy MVP candidate. However, the issue here is depth. Curry’s point differential was positive due to his floor spacing, elite shooting, and secondary facilitating abilities and while Drummond had a negative point differential, you’re now replacing his minutes with Paul Reed who is significantly worse.

For his career, Embiid’s team is just 3-6 against Giannis Antetokounmpo, despite his personal numbers being solid: 26.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.1 blocks. One of Embiid’s issues is while he can post anyone up and create his own shot, he is not running point. Without Curry, this is going to amplify the pressure on Tobias Harris to some extent, but mostly on Tyrese Maxey.

Maxey has been awesome this season and his development is critical for the 76ers’ title chances, but what he is able to do against Jrue Holiday may determine this game. Maxey is excellent, but we’ve seen Holiday and this Bucks’ defense put the clamps down on better guards, and without Curry to assist as a facilitator this may be a tough ask.

This is not a large sample size (226 possessions), but when Embiid, Maxey, Drummond, and Curry are off the floor the 76ers have a -23.1 point differential, per Cleaning the Glass. Those minutes tonight could be critical for this game. Moreover, while the Celtics‘ game skewed this number a bit, the 76ers have a -3.4 point differential over the last two weeks – but that game helped illustrate the 76ers’ lack of depth.

Bucks Big 3 Can Carry Team

The Bucks are heading into the Break a bit banged up with injuries to Grayson Allen (Hip – Doubtful), Wesley Matthews (Toe – Probable), George Hill (Neck – Out), Pat Connaughton (Finer – Out), Brook Lopez (Back- Out). However, they have their Big 3 of Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton intact.

Milwaukee has slowly climbed the Eastern Conference standings and now they sit just two games out of the top seed in the East. They have the ninth-best Adjusted Net Rating (+2.5) and the sixth-best Adjusted Offensive Rating (112.6). Their offense has been dominant lately, and they’re scoring 122.0 points per 100 possessions over the last two weeks.

A key for Milwaukee has been the health of their Big 3. Whenever they share the floor the Bucks have a +14.6 point differential which is in the 98th percentile of all lineups.

But a major factor is that when all three are healthy, the Bucks don’t experience a severe drop-off in talent because they generally can have at least one of them on the floor at any time. As long as one of Giannis, Holiday, or Middleton is on the floor, the Bucks have a +5.7 point differential, per Cleaning the Glass.

This type of depth is critical for regular-season matchups.

76ers-Bucks Pick

Ordinarily, the last game before the All-Star break may be a let-down spot where motivation is in question, but I don’t believe that’s the case here. Although Harden is not playing tonight, the 76ers’ acquisition of him was their move to be the top dog in the East, and I don’t think the reigning champs will take kindly to that.

Milwaukee has some injuries, but overall their depth and their roster is much more healthy and complete than that of the 76ers. I fully expect Milwaukee to make this a statement game and I’ll lay the points with Giannis and Co.

Pick: Bucks -6.5