Bucks vs. Grizzlies Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
It’s Saturday night, and two of the league’s best and most fun teams in the league go head-to-head for the second time this season in a potential NBA Finals preview. The Milwaukee Bucks and and Memphis Grizzlies are both the top-two in their conference, and a run to the Conference Finals or further certainly seems to be in play. That should make tonight a monster battle.
There’s just one problem: the biggest stars may not be there.
Ja Morant is still out somewhat indefinitely with that knee injury, so the league’s likely Most Improved Player will watch this one from the sidelines. And on the other side, the league’s reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a question mark as he continues to rest his knee and get healthy for the playoffs.
So who will actually play and how does this one play out?
Injury News Hovering Over Bucks
As of Saturday morning there’s still no definitive news on Antetokounmpo, but with the Grizzlies favored by two points even without Morant, the books seem to expect Giannis to sit this one out. It’s hard to imagine the shorthanded Grizzlies would be favored against the full-strength defending NBA champs.
Khris Middleton does look like he will play. He sat out Thursday after being day-to-day with a wrist injury, but he’s probable tonight. The Bucks are 6-7 this season without Antetokounmpo, but that includes wins against the Rockets, Wizards, Blazers, Pacers, Kings, and a Heat team missing both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Milwaukee has a clear identity, and that makes sense for a champion. The Bucks bomb on offense, ranking top-five in the NBA in 3-pointer attempts, makes, and percentage. The defense has not been as strong as in recent years but is improving as Brook Lopez gets healthy and re-acclimated to the lineup.
Like usual, the Bucks allow the most 3-point attempts and makes in the league but look to cut opponents off inside the arc. They dominate the glass and refuse to foul, so they don’t let opponents get the easy stuff.
That’s been the Mike Budenholzer formula for years, and it’s hard to argue with it. The formula works — sometimes even without the superstar around at the heart of it.
Grizzlies Bench Can Hold Its Own
The Bucks aren’t the only team with a strong culture and identity though, and it turns out they’re not the only team that can with without its star either.
Ja Morant is a true MVP candidate after a breakout season, but these Grizzlies are awfully good even without their superstar. Earlier this year, Morant missed 12 games between Thanksgiving and Christmas but the Grizzlies won anyway, going 10-2 without him. Now they’ve won the last three games since Morant went out by a total of 66 points.
Somehow, Memphis is now 16-2 without Morant this season. For those of you counting at home, that’s a 73-9 win pace over a full season. So apparently the Grizzlies without Morant are the greatest team in NBA history?
Probably not so much. But the ability to win without your star is a good sign of team culture, depth, and identity, and that’s exactly what’s made the Grizzlies so good and so fun this year.
Tyus Jones has stepped in for Morant and been wonderful this season at point guard. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have broken out. De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke have starred off the bench, and now Dillon Brooks is back too.
The Grizz have a clear identity too, but it’s a very different one than Milwaukee. Memphis eschews 3s and gets the ball inside the arc. The Grizzlies take the most 2-point attempts in the NBA, even though they’re not particularly efficient there, and they’re fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts because of their move away from 3s.
They also mash the offensive glass, leading the league in Offensive Rebounding Rate at over 30% of their misses. The defense is improving but makes up for some weak links with frenetic energy that helps them lead the league in both steals and blocks per game.
The Grizzlies play a similar game as the Bucks, but they play it very differently. Memphis too is trying to win the basketball math with volume. The Grizz do it by taking away opponent possessions, turning them over, and they do it by keeping possessions alive by rebounding almost a third of their misses.
With both MVP candidates presumed missing, this one is about depth and culture. The Grizzlies have the better depth, but I like Milwaukee to win this clash of team cultures.
Just compare the strengths again. The biggest Grizzlies strengths are negated by Milwaukee’s culture and strengths. The Grizz rely heavily on turnovers, but the Bucks take good care of the ball. Memphis mashes the offensive glass, but Milwaukee is an excellent rebounding team. The Grizz want to get the ball inside and punish defenses, but the Bucks are the best in the league at forcing opponents to hoist from beyond the arc.
That clash of cultures is why I lean Milwaukee on this one. The Grizzlies aren’t going to play at a 73-win pace without Morant forever, and the matchups really lean in Milwaukee’s direction.
I’ll look to play the Bucks on the moneyline on FanDuel, which has the best odds, though I’ll wait til closer to tip because we should get a little better value if and when Antetokounmpo is confirmed out.
Pick: Bucks ML +110