Lakers vs. Bucks Odds, Picks: Expect Defense in LeBron vs. Giannis Matchup

Action Network contributor Joe Dellera breaks down Friday's marquee matchup between the Lakers and Bucks, including his betting prediction.

Lakers vs. Bucks Odds, Preview

Lakers Odds +8.5
Bucks Odds -8.5
Over/Under 229
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks face off in a nationally televised game tonight at Fiserv Forum. It’s the first game of a six-game swing through the Eastern Conference for the Lakers who have six of their past eight games.

The Milwaukee Bucks will likely have All-Star Khris Middleton back in his first game since injuring his wrist in the first round of the playoffs earlier this year. Will Middleton’s expected return give the Bucks a boost as they look to improve upon their 15-5 start to the season or will LeBron James and Co. spoil his season debut?

Let’s break down the Lakers vs. Bucks matchup.

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Defense Is Carrying the Lakers This Season

The Lakers have continued to list both Anthony Davis (calf) and LeBron James (adductor) as probable on their injury report but they have generally played even with those injury designations. Additionally, Lonnie Walker (foot) and Dennis Schroder (personal) are questionable while Troy Brown Jr (foot) is probable.

The Lakers have struggled a bit this season with an 8-12 record to go along with their 24th Ranked Adjusted Net Rating of -2.4. Their issues have largely been on the offensive side of the ball, averaging just 110.1 points per 100 possessions (25th in the league). The Lakers’ overall success has been driven by defense, and they are limiting opponents to just 111.9 points per 100 possessions this season (ninth).

Their scoring woes are exacerbated when they play strong teams. Against the top 10 teams in point differential, the Lakers are just 2-5 and score the fewest points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. The offense has not been cohesive this season, but their defense has been able to keep them afloat.

Even on the season as a whole, Anthony Davis has been this team’s best player. He has a Net Rating of +7.7 when he’s on the floor and has averaged 26.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists this season.

The matchup vs Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez is a tougher one for Davis. In five games with the Lakers, AD has averaged 24.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists against Antetokounmpo. While those are still solid numbers for anyone, it’s less dominant than he has been this season.

The Bucks Consistently Beat Bad Teams.

The Bucks have been anxiously awaiting Middleton’s return to provide them with some much-needed scoring and sure up their perimeter rotations. While we should expect to see him on a minutes limit, last season he was a plus on both sides of the ball with a +6.1 point differential per 100 possessions in his minutes played. The Bucks have indicated that MarJon Beauchamp (illness) and Serge Ibaka (illness) will both be out tonight.

The Bucks have had an excellent start to the season: They are 15-5, sit fifth in the league in Adjusted Net Rating, and only allow their opponents to score 107.1 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, best mark in the NBA. They take care of business on a nightly basis.

This has improved against the league’s worst teams though. When the Bucks have played teams in the bottom 10 of point differential, they are 8-1 with a +9.7 point differential and have held their opponents to just 105.3 points per 100 possessions. This is a hallmark for the Bucks over the last couple of years and last season against bottom 10 teams they had a +13.2 point differential while allowing just 106.6 points per 100, per Cleaning the Glass.

Lakers vs. Bucks Prediction

Although the Bucks anticipate Khris Middleton’s return tonight, we should not expect him to have a massive contribution on a likely minutes restriction. But even considering that minor bump in effectiveness for the Bucks, it is defense that should shine tonight.

Both of these teams have been excellent on the defensive side of the ball, and although the Lakers have improved offensively over the past two weeks, that is buoyed by the competition (or lack thereof) that they have had during that stretch.

Even with the Lakers playing at the league’s second-fastest Pace, the Bucks have slowed things down on offense with the fifth-slowest Offensive Possession Length. While I lean the Bucks even at -9, I think these teams will both lean on their respective defenses to try and win this game.

Pick: Under 229