Knicks vs. Bucks Preview: Back the Bucks to Score Early and Often

Wondering how to Back the Bucks against the Knicks? Joe Dellera breaks it down.

Knicks vs. Bucks Odds

Knicks Odds +9.5
Bucks Odds -9.5
Over/Under 215.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Knicks head to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks as they try to snap a two-game skid while Giannis and company look to rebound after a tough loss to the Cavaliers. This is the fourth game between these two teams this season, with the Knicks taking the first matchup and the Bucks winning the most recent two.

So, what’s the angle on this nationally televised game between two teams looking to start a new winning streak? Let’s break it down.

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Knicks Need Shooters to Step Up

The Knicks are dealing with a few injuries as Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ryan Arcidiacono (ankle) are questionable for this matchup. Losing Noel hurts their depth at the center position, which is critical against this Milwaukee team.

The Knicks have struggled to find their footing this season and are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 23-26 record. Much of this is because the Knicks continue to trot out lineups that do not have a true point guard as they rely on Kemba Walker and Alex Burks, neither of whom has truly lived up to expectations this year.

Between this and a reduced efficiency from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett (albeit RJ has looked incredible as of late), the Knicks have the sixth-worst Adjusted Offensive Rating (108.3).

One thing the Knicks do well on the offensive side of the ball is shoot the 3-ball. The Knicks shoot 36.3% from 3-point range, 11th in the league, per Cleaning the Glass. Luckily, their best shot is on non-corner 3s, which lines up against the Bucks well because the Bucks are about league average at defending non-corner 3s, and they allow them at the highest frequency in the league (32.4%).

This could open up an opportunity for Quentin Grimes, Kemba Walker, Immanuel Quickley, and Evan Fournier, all of whom take over 40% of their shots on non-corner 3s, per Cleaning The Glass.

Bucks Rounding Into Form

The Bucks are fairly healthy and only have listed Rodney Hood as doubtful and Wesley Matthews as probable for this matchup. Additionally, Grayson Allen is slated to return from his one-game suspension, and he’s played a key role for Milwaukee this season as a sharpshooter.

Milwaukee has been excellent on both sides of the floor this season, and that’s despite their big three playing just 22 of 50 games together this season. In those games, they are 18-4 straight up.

Milwaukee’s offense is excellent in the halfcourt (97.0 points per 100 plays – seventh in the NBA), but even though they get out in transition often, they aren’t relatively as successful converting those opportunities (116.9 points per 100 plays – 24th).

On the plus side, the Knicks do a decent job of limiting transition opportunities, but they are fifth-worst in points per 100 plays allowed (127.9). The Bucks should be able to impose their will on this Knicks team in transition and control the pace of the game.

Additionally, the Knicks allow the third-highest frequency of 3-point attempts, 40.6%, but they’ve only defended them at about a league-average mark, 35%. This is a great spot for Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, and Khris Middleton – all of whom shoot 39% or better from 3-point range.

Middleton and Portis each have their prop lines set at 2.5 (+100) and 1.5 (-135), respectively. Middleton canned four 3s in his one game against the Knicks, and Portis has recorded zero, three, and three 3s against the Knicks. I think both of their 3-point props present value.

Knicks-Bucks Pick

The Knicks are fighting an uphill battle in this matchup, and they’ve been incredibly inconsistent this season – they are not a team I’m happy backing at this point.

On the flip side, Milwaukee is rounding into form despite the loss to the Cavaliers, another elite team in the Eastern Conference. Coach Thibs has played some strange rotations for New York, and I think the best way to capitalize on that is by expecting points from the Bucks in the first half.

The Bucks have averaged 57.4 first half points over their last five games, and I see no reason why they can’t clear that threshold again against this Knicks defense that is susceptible to the style of offense the Bucks like to run.

Pick: Bucks 1H Team Total over 56.5 (PointsBet)