Bucks vs. Bulls Preview: The 1Q Bet to Make

Bucks 1Q Net Rating: 1st. Bulls 1Q Net Rating: 23rd. Austin Wang breaks down the early bet to make for Milwaukee-Chicago.

Bucks vs. Bulls Odds

Bucks Odds -3
Bulls Odds +3
Over/Under 239
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

On Friday evening, the Chicago Bulls host the Milwaukee Bucks in a Central Division matchup between two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls are hitting a rough patch in their schedule. They are on the second game of a back-to-back set, and they traveled from Atlanta back to Chicago overnight.

They’ve lost three games in a row against the Grizzlies, Heat and Hawks. Now, they will face the defending champion Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the next game.

The Bucks have dominated this matchup over the last several seasons. They have won 11 out of the 12 matchups since the 2018-19 season and have won all six in Milwaukee.

Can they continue this recent streak against the Bulls? Let’s break down this matchup below.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks offense has been in sync. They are tied for the second-best offensive rating (120.2) in the last 10 games while averaging second in effective field goal percentage (57.6%) and first in pace (102.9) during this timeframe.

The Bucks pulled off an amazing comeback win over the Heat on Wednesday. They were down by nine points with under five minutes ago. However, they powered through, forced some turnovers, and Jrue Holiday made an amazing game-winning shot.

They were aggressive with their defense and forced Tyler Herro into some costly turnovers that led to the victory.

The Bucks have been winning but not covering the spread. They’re only 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games. Their defense has been horrendous.

However, they excel in the first quarter and lead the league in first-quarter net rating (+10.5), per NBA Advanced Stats.

Milwaukee also has a significant rest advantage with two days of rest against the Bulls on the second night of a back-to-back. Also, the Bucks are one game behind the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings, and a win could put them in the third seed as they own the tiebreaker over the Bulls.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are struggling a bit — they’ve dealt with injuries to key players in Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

They rank ninth in offensive rating (116.7) but 22nd in defensive rating (115.0). They have just been an average team recently, and I think they could struggle against a Bucks team that is hitting their stride.

According to head coach Billy Donovan, Caruso got on the court on Monday for the first time since undergoing right wrist surgery but will need another few weeks to build up strength in his wrist before he’s cleared for contact.

Ball, who suffered a left meniscus tear, has started running but still needs some time to be ready to play.

Donovan mentioned they will make a decision on whether Zach LaVine plays or not after they see how his knee responds following Thursday’s night game against the Hawks. I consider LaVine as questionable to play Friday and could be a risk to sit. This will be the first back-to-back for LaVine since he returned to the lineup, so there is some uncertainty.

Rookie Ayo Dosunmu has stepped up in Caruso and Ball’s absence and has been playing well. He will be needed to step up even more if LaVine sits.

DeMar DeRozan scored 30-plus points in 10 consecutive games before cooling down in his last two. The man is simply unguardable at the moment and is certainly making a case to be in the MVP conversation.

But contrary to the Bucks, the Bulls really struggle in the first quarter. They are 23rd in first quarter net rating (-4.0) this season at home, per NBA Advanced Stats.

Bucks-Bulls Pick

I’m backing the Bucks to come out fast and strong early against a Bulls team that is dealing with injuries and on the second game of a back-to-back. The Bucks have a tendency to give up leads, and their recent defensive struggles do not inspire much confidence to back them for the full game.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have consistently struggled in the first quarter. They are 25-37 ATS in 1Q and 13-20 ATS in 1Q at home. In addition, they will be fatigued on the second night of a back-to-back after traveling overnight.

My pick is on the Bucks first-quarter spread of -1, and I would play it up to -1.5.

Pick: Bucks 1Q -1 (Play to -1.5)