Bucks vs. Hawks Preview: Milwaukee Should Thrive on Offense

Kenny Ducey previews Monday's NBA game between the Bucks and Hawks, including betting odds and a prediction.

Bucks vs. Hawks Odds

Bucks Odds -5.5
Hawks Odds +5.5
Over/Under 230
Time 6 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Bucks and Hawks both enter their clash on Monday trending in the wrong direction record-wise, but one clearly has more to look forward to than the other.

With a healthier roster and a good matchup, can the Bucks go out and cover the spread on the road?

Bucks Finally Starting to Get Healthy

The subject of this game preview will be all about health. Milwaukee’s finally got that, for the most part. Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez remain away from the team with injuries to their ankle and back, respectively, but no longer do the Bucks need to worry about shuffling around their guard rotation.

Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton and George Hill returned this week from trips to the health and safety protocols, and their absences — along with Donte DiVincenzo’s — had really made life complicated.

Coming off a six-game winning streak, a shorthanded Milwaukee team would drop four of its next five before getting back to its winning ways against Golden State. While a loss to Toronto was less than ideal, the Raptors have ranked 11th in defense over the past two weeks and just outside the top five in defense inside of five feet.

While Milwaukee does rank fourth in 3-pointers attempted per 100 possessions, having a good matchup around the rim can make a world of a difference as we saw against the Warriors, who played without Draymond Green. The Hawks are weak around the rim due to injury.

Hawks Have Been Abysmal on Defense

If this is your first time reading one of my breakdowns of the Hawks, allow me to talk briefly about their defense. If you’re not new here, you can just skip this part. Nothing’s changed with Atlanta.

While plenty of teams have somehow figured out to play defense in the wake of COVID outbreaks taking away most of their core players, the Hawks have not. That is, at least, since Trae Young has been on the floor.

The Hawks have now lost five games in a row and nine of their last 11 dating back to Christmas Day. The reason? Well, they can’t stop a nosebleed. Since Young’s return on Dec. 27, Atlanta has allowed 123.1 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark in the NBA.

It posted a defensive rating of 125.8 in a loss to the Knicks on Saturday, and prior to that a 130.5 in Miami. The Hawks’ three worst defensive performances judging by the efficiency numbers have come since Young’s return on Dec. 27.

The good news here is that Atlanta is a little healthier. In the last few weeks the Hawks have returned the likes of Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter and swapped out an injured Cam Reddish for Kevin Knox via trade.

The bad news is that there are still injuries which should seriously impact this game. Bogdan Bogdanovic remains out due to right knee soreness and Clint Capela will miss this one with a left ankle sprain.

Bucks-Hawks Pick

Without Capela, I see a pretty difficult task ahead for Atlanta. The Hawks had already been abysmal on the defensive end, and now this absence has really tanked that unit even further.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis should have a field day in the paint against a Hawks team which has allowed a league-worst 59.4% shooting in the paint since Capela’s injury four games ago. with a poor 65.9% field goal percentage at the rim.

Furthermore, this strengthened guard unit should help eliminate whatever offensive issues Milwaukee was plagued by a week ago. I expect regression to the mean now that the Bucks aren’t playing a near-top 10 defense at the moment.

Pick: Bucks -5.5 (-110)