Trail Blazers vs. Bucks Preview: Target the Total in Milwaukee

Raheem Palmer breaks down Monday's NBA matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Milwaukee Bucks and shares his best bet.

Trail Blazers vs. Bucks Odds

Trail Blazers Odds +15.5
Bucks Odds -15.5
Over/Under 230.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

With Super Bowl Sunday falling on the 13th of February, both the Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trailblazers come into this game well rested with a few days off heading into tonight’s matchup.

The Bucks come off a 131-107 blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday and hope to get off the schneid against a Portland Trailblazers team that is in rebuilding mode after trading CJ McCollum, Robert Covington and Norman Powell. Despite trading significant pieces before the trade deadline, the Trailblazers are winners of two straight, overcoming a 23-point second half deficit to defeat the New York Knicks on Saturday night.

They’ll be fighting an uphill battle against the defending world champion Bucks tonight in a game where they’ve been installed as 15.5-point road underdogs with a total of 230.5. These two teams recently met in Portland on February 5th, and the Bucks made easy work of the Blazers in a 137-108 victory. Will we see a similar result here?

Let’s analyze both sides and find out!

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Simons Leads the New-Look Trail Blazers

The Portland Trailblazers have shut down Damian Lillard for the year with an abdominal injury, and it’s pretty clear they’re using the rest of the season for developmental time for their younger players after trading away Norman Powell, Robert Covington, CJ McCollum, Larry Nance and Tony Snell and waiving Cody Zeller.

In return, the Blazers received Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, Josh Hart, Didi Louzada, Joe Ingles and Elijah Hughes, with only Hart, Winslow and Hughes appearing in Saturday’s game. Ingles is out for the year, and Bledsoe, Johnson and Louzada will miss time with injuries.

Nonetheless, Anfernee Simons has stepped up in the absence of Lillard and McCollum, scoring 29 points in Wednesday night’s win against the Lakers and also scoring 30 points along with eight assists and five rebounds in their 112-103 comeback win against the New York Knicks on Saturday.

Jusuf Nurkic continues to be a big part of this roster as well, however it’s the addition of Hart which should have the biggest impact on this team. While Hart is just a 33% three point shooter, he gives the Blazers a wing who can defend and make plays offensively.

Still, this isn’t a team that’s going to make much noise for the rest of this season. The Blazers are 19th in Offensive Rating (114.4) and 27th in Defensive Rating (114.4). Over the past two weeks, the offense has declined significantly as they’re dead last in Offensive Rating, scoring just 100.3 points per 100 possessions.

Not only are the Blazers just 18th in half court points per possession, but they also don’t score in transition. The biggest thing the Blazers do at a high level offensively is shoot the 3 where they’re sixth in 3-point frequency (40.6%) and 11th in 3-point shooting percentage (36.2%). With this team ranking in the bottom 10 in defending every area of the floor and dead last in half court points per possession, unless the Blazers are shooting lights out from 3, I’m not expecting them to be competitive against the league’s better teams.

Will the Bucks’ Wings Step Up?

The Milwaukee Bucks have spent much of this season coasting coming off an NBA title. Despite injuries to everyone from Jrue Holiday to Brook Lopez to George Hill to Khris Middleton to Giannis Antetokounmpo, this is still a team that is fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 35-22 record. They’re ninth in Offensive Rating, and over the past two weeks, they’re scoring 126.1 points per 100 possessions, first among NBA teams.

The Bucks did suffer yet another significant injury with Pat Connaughton being diagnosed with a fourth metacarpal fracture on his right hand after leaving Thursday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. While he is expected to return before the end of the regular season, the Bucks are thin on guards with his injury.

In addition, the Bucks traded Donte DiVincenzo, Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye for Serge Ibaka for more depth in the front court in light of the injury to Brook Lopez. The Connaughton loss is significant as it removes a 40.5% 3-point shooter, and it will be tough to replace him. The Bucks are left with Middleton, Wesley Matthews, Jordan Nwora and Grayson Allen on the wings.

While Ibaka hasn’t stayed on the floor consistently during his time for the Clippers, he’ll be getting minutes as the third big behind Antetokoumpo and Bobby Portis.

Despite this, the Bucks have a major edge inside against the Blazers as they’re eighth in field goal percentage at the rim (67.2%) facing a Blazers team which is 20th in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (65.6%). The Blazers are also 29th in opponent 3-point field goal percentage, so I’m expecting big games from Middleton and Allen from the perimeter. Even with the loss of Connaughton, it’s tough to imagine the Blazers putting up much resistance here.

Trail Blazers-Bucks Pick

The last time these two teams played, we got a final score of 137-108 with the Bucks scoring 1.38 points per 100 possession — that’s how little resistance the Blazers offer in this matchup.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, losing DiVincenzo and Connaughton has a significant impact on this bench unit on the offensive end of the floor. Josh Hart should make this defense a little better than we’ve seen recently from the Blazers, however I’m not expecting the Blazers to score efficiently here.

In their first matchup, the Blazers scored just 1.08 points per possession, and they’ve gotten significantly worse offensively.

My model makes this game closer to 227, and we’ve seen this total get steamed down from 232 to where it sits now at 230.5. I agree with the move and will look to play the under here.

Pick: Under 230.5