Bulls vs. Bucks Preview: Is Milwaukee Overvalued in Friday's Matchup?

Action Network NBA betting contributor Jacob McKenna previews Friday's primetime matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.

Bulls vs. Bucks Odds

Bulls Odds +10.5
Bucks Odds -10.5
Over/Under 227.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Chicago Bulls will make the short trip to Milwaukee on Friday night to take on the Bucks in an Eastern Conference showdown.

Chicago currently sits atop the Eastern Conference, as the offseason additions of DeMar Derozan and Lonzo Ball have proven to be great additions alongside Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. However, the Bucks are right on their tail, sitting in fourth place in the East.

The Bulls come into this matchup without some of their stars, which might be enough to sway this matchup into the Bucks’ favor. Can Chicago overcome some absences and rise to the top, or will the Bucks do what they do best and dominate on their home court? Let’s take a look at both side.

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Bulls Defense Slipping Without Key Players

LaVine and Lonzo Ball, two major keys for this Bulls team on both ends of the floor, will continue to miss time as both are dealing with knee injuries. Both LaVine and Ball have missed the past three games, but Chicago’s overall performance on the offensive end hasn’t seen many changes.

The Bulls have been one of the best offensive units in the NBA this year. At the time of writing, they have the third best Offensive Rating, scoring 112.3 points per 100 possessions, and their efficiency has been great as they lead the league in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

Many would expect that the absence of LaVine and Ball would throw this offense for a loop, but so far that has not been the case.

In Chicago’s past three games, their Offensive Rating has soared to 115.1, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Their efficiency has been the highest it has been this season as well, shooting 49.4% from the floor overall and 42.7% from behind the arc.

Clearly, the offense has not skipped a beat. However, the same can’t be said about their play on the defensive end.

The Bulls are by no means a bad defensive team, entering this matchup with a Defensive Rating of 109.9. However, Ball and LaVine both provide this team with great defensive play in the back court, and without them in the lineup, the Bulls’ Defensive Rating has shot up to 126.1 in their past five games.

Chicago’s recent schedule has not been easy, but as the top team in the East, they are going to need to clean some things up even without their stars on the floor.

Milwaukee’s Inconsistency Could Leave Door Open

Milwaukee has won just two of their past six games, which is a small concern entering this matchup.

In their past six games, the Bucks have posted an Offensive Rating of just 107.2, 25th in the NBA during that span. They’ve also shot just 43.5% from the floor in those games, further proving that, as a team, they are having some issues on that end of the floor.

Luckily, the Bucks’ defense has not been too bad. They are surrendering an average of just 43.7 points in the paint per game in their past six, and boast the sixth-best Defensive Rating, allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions.

If they can get their offensive attack to match their play defensively, the Bucks will certainly have a great chance to grab another win on their home court.

The most likely way that will happen is from behind the arc, where they are attempting 39.6 3-pointers per game this season. That’s the fourth-most in the NBA, and on top of that they are sinking an average of 14.3 shots from deep per game, second-most in the NBA. It is going to be key that Milwaukee finds a way to nail shots from deep.

Bulls-Bucks Pick

My biggest concern entering this matchup isn’t the injuries for the Bulls, but more so the struggles that Milwaukee has had on the offensive end of the floor.

We’ve seen the Bucks lose to the Pistons, then come out and defeat a high-powered Grizzlies team. The inconsistency is something that catches my eye, and it is becoming tough to predict which version of the Bucks we will see on a nightly basis.

As I previously mentioned, the 3-ball has been Milwaukee’s best friend, but Chicago has been a great team on the perimeter this season and allows just 31.7 attempts form deep per game. In their past three games, their opponents are making an average of 9.3 shots from behind the arc per game, meaning that nothing is going to come easy for the Bucks from that part of the court.

Even without LaVine and Ball, I expect the Bulls to remain competitive, using their recent offensive production to keep this one close.

Pick: Bulls +10.5