Bucks vs Lakers: Trends Point to Milwaukee Bouncing Back

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey details his betting picks and prediction for the ESPN matchup going down between the Bucks and Lakers on Friday.

Bucks vs. Lakers Odds

Bucks Odds -1
Lakers Odds +1
Moneyline -118 / +102
Over/Under 230.5
Time Friday, 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bucks vs. Lakers on Friday, March 8 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.

The Bucks may have made some marked improvements on the defensive end which sparked a six-game winning streak, but their recent run of form came to a screeching halt against the Warriors on Wednesday night.

Can Milwaukee get back on track as it continues a four-game road trip in L.A. against the Lakers?

Let’s get to our Bucks vs. Lakers prediction and pick.

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Bucks vs. Lakers Prediction

Pick: Bucks -2.5 (-110)

Bucks Betting Outlook

As has been discussed at great lengths, the Bucks were not a great defensive team. Then they hired Doc Rivers, and while they traded in some offensive efficiency their defensive production skyrocketed all the way to second in the NBA over the last two weeks.

Well, in a lopsided loss to the Warriors, the Bucks put forth their worst defensive showing since Feb. 8 and the second-worst we’ve seen under Rivers.

What happened? Well, much like that aforementioned game on Feb. 8, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves win by a comfortable 24-point margin, the Warriors hit what seemed like a million 3-pointers. In Minnesota’s case, it shot 51% from beyond the arc, and on Wednesday the Bucks surrendered a 48.7% shooting night from deep to the Warriors.

On the whole, 3-point defense hasn’t been much of an issue for Milwaukee. It ranks ninth this season in defending the arc and while it’s slipped to 15th over the last two weeks it’s posted a nearly identical mark. I still have full faith in this defense, as should you, but the issue here is what to make of this offense.

The Bucks mustered up just 89.1 points per 100 possessions against Golden State which marked their worst showing of the season by a considerable margin. Sure, the Warriors are a solid defensive team, and the Bucks will not win many games shooting 28.2% from 3, but a team that’s so careful with the ball turned it over 15 times and aside from Bobby Portis and Giannis Antetokounmpo nobody had any level of success in any shooting zone.

This offense misses Khris Middleton, and it’s certainly going to need good shooting nights to win. They can hang their hat on the fact that even with the dreadful showing, they’re still inside the top 10 in offensive efficiency in the last two weeks and certainly can’t shoot this poorly again.

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Lakers Betting Outlook

The Lakers had shored up their performance in defending the 3-pointer in rather significant fashion, turning a massive liability into a great strength. In the aforementioned last two weeks, though, they’ve reverted back to their early-season form with just 38.3% of opponents’ shots falling from deep. Coupled with more poor defending at the rim, this defense has taken a step backwards in recent weeks.

L.A. has also seen a decrease in its rebounding rate and has really just remained afloat when its opponents have missed shots sporadically from game to game from outside. It’ll encounter a Bucks team that shot 2.5 points worse from 3 on the road this season and which enters off the back of a horrid shooting night, but with numbers down over the last two weeks and the Bucks shooting the ball very well during that span, this is certainly a cause for concern.

The good news here is that the Lakers, in another wild swing, have taken the 3-point shot and turned it into a strength, ranking first in the NBA in shooting accuracy since Feb. 23 despite taking those shots very infrequently. While the outside shot has been a weakness of the Bucks, the infrequency in which the shot is being taken certainly softens the blow as does the fact that the Bucks have been pretty great at defending inside the perimeter.

Bucks vs. Lakers Picks, Odds

Sure, the Bucks have been poor on the road this season and are coming off of arguably their worst game of the season, but with the improvements they were able to make heading into that game against the Warriors, they should have a very fair shot here.

Milwaukee’s defense should get back to business against a Lakers team that simply hasn’t thrived from the outside as the Timberwolves and Warriors can. With some shooting variance kicking in, this offense should find a way through a poor 3-point defense. Even if the Bucks shoot at their depressed season-long mark from 3 on the road, it would still be an eight-point improvement over what we saw in San Francisco on Wednesday.

I’m willing to back the trends we’ve seen developing in the last month or so under Rivers and ignore the poor one-game sample. The Bucks are the play here in a bounce-back spot.

Pick: Bucks -2.5 (-110)