Bucks vs Pelicans: Bet the Road Favorite?

It's a NBA TV clash between the Bucks and Pelicans as Action Network contributor Michael Arinze provides his betting picks and prediction for the matchup on Thursday.

Bucks vs. Pelicans Odds

Bucks Odds -1
Pelicans Odds +1
Moneyline -115 / -105
Over/Under 224.5
Time Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bucks vs. Pelicans on Thursday, Mar. 28 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today’s game.

The Bucks and Pelicans will have to regroup after suffering some pretty unique losses on Tuesday night. Milwaukee blew a 19-point fourth-quarter lead against the Lakers before losing 128-124 in double overtime.

If we turn to New Orleans, it battled back from a 20-point deficit against the Thunder to take a five-point lead with 3:11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, only to go 0-for-5 the rest of the way and lose 119-112.

After those losses, both teams talked about watching the film to see what went wrong and what they could’ve done better. Thus, this matchup might simply come down to which team can make the necessary adjustments and execute down the stretch.

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Bucks vs. Pelicans Prediction

Pick: Bucks ML (-125)

Bucks Betting Outlook

You can always count on Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to give a good sound bite because he’s always measured in his interactions with the media. While Antetokounmpo gave the ready-made response of going back to watch the film, he did highlight Milwaukee’s lack of ball movement down the stretch and its inability to win 50-50 balls as factors that likely contributed to the Bucks’ downfall.

Even though Antetokounmpo recorded his ninth triple-double of the season with 29 points, a season-high 21 rebounds and 11 assists, you can bet that he’ll be the first to take a reflective approach to assess what he could have done more to help his team win the game.

If you’re a Bucks fan, I still think there’s reason for optimism, particularly given their improvement on the defensive end of the court. Per, Milwaukee is currently 14th in defensive efficiency (115.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) after being in the bottom half of the league for much of the season.

Offensively, the Bucks are still a handful anytime Antetokounmpo is roaming the court. Our Action Labs database gives them an offensive efficiency value of 117.6.

Remember that number because Milwaukee’s offensive efficiency will come into play when picking our best bet in this matchup.

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Pelicans Betting Outlook

When I looked at the efficiency metrics of both teams, I was surprised to see that the Pelicans’ 5.4 net rating was the fourth-best mark in the NBA. Overall, New Orleans is tied for the seventh-best record at 44-28, so there’s a bit of a gulf between its efficiency and position in the league-wide standings.

My next thought was to examine the Pelicans’ Pythagorean win expectation using ESPN’s Relative Percent Index. The results show that the Pelicans’ record should be closer to that of a 49-23 team.

One school of thought might be to say that New Orleans is underachieving. However, I think this level of success is unchartered territory for the Pelicans, as they have to learn how to win games when fine margins are involved.

Their recent game against the Thunder is just one example of New Orleans struggling to get over the line in a close game.

Whenever two teams are separated by five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the NBA records the matchup as a clutch game. New Orleans is just 11-14 in these instances, with a .440 win percentage.

It’s worth noting that the Pelicans have performed the worst in clutch games of any team with 40 or more wins on the year.

Therefore, bettors should proceed cautiously whenever they see the Pelicans involved in a game with a short point spread that could come down to the last few possessions.

Bucks vs. Pelicans Picks, Odds

While we certainly made an interesting discovery regarding the Pelicans’ struggles in clutch games, I began to wonder about what kind of profile of a team would give the Pelicans trouble in a close game.

My first thought was that it would have to be a quality team offensively that is efficient enough to score the basket when the stakes are highest.

As a result, I wanted to see how the Pelicans performed against a team with a similar offensive efficiency (117.6 or higher) to that of the Bucks in what the bookmakers project to be a close game.

In our database, New Orleans has yet to win a game or cover the spread when facing an elite offensive team with a point spread of three or fewer points.

And if we look at the Bucks’ performance in clutch games, they have the fifth-best mark at 23-13 (.639).

The numbers suggest this is a bad spot for the Pelicans, and rather than laying the points with the Bucks, I recommend backing them on the BetRivers moneyline at -125.

Pick: Bucks ML (-125)