The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Thursday’s NBA Slate
Thursday features a small, three-game slate, but there are some quality contests on the docket. The action gets underway with the Lakers vs. the Bucks at 7:30 p.m. ET and wraps up with a pair of contests at 10 p.m. ET.
All eyes will be on the Lakers and Bucks in what should be a great matchup. These have been the two best teams in basketball this season, setting up a potential NBA Finals preview. Who has the edge in this matchup?
Let’s dive in.
Both of these teams have gotten off to fantastic starts this season. The Lakers have won 11 of their first 15 contests, and they also rank first in Net Rating. They’re outscoring opponents by an average of +10.09 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks record is a bit more modest – they’ve won just nine of their first 14 games – but their Net Rating of +9.53 is the second-best mark in the league.
There is a clear gap between these two teams and the rest of the NBA at this point. No other team owns a Net Rating above +6.84, so that’s a pretty significant drop-off.
That said, the way these two teams succeed is very different. The Bucks have been an offensive juggernaut this season. They rank second in the league in offensive efficiency and fourth in effective FG%. They rely on the 3-pointer in particular: 40% of their shots come from 3-point range – which is the eighth-highest mark in the league – and they rank fourth in terms of 3-point accuracy.
The Lakers are also solid offensively, ranking fourth in offensive efficiency and sixth in effective FG%, but they are well below average in terms of 3-point volume. Only 33.5% of their shots come from behind the arc, which ranks 22nd in the league.
Where the Lakers really stand out is on the defensive side. They allow the fewest points per 100 possessions, thanks in part to their ability to guard the 3-point line. Opponents are shooting just 30.2% from the corner vs. the Lakers – which is the lowest mark in the league – and 34.5% from 3-point range in general.
That makes them a very poor matchup for the Bucks. If they can take away the 3-pointer, Milwaukee is going to struggle to generate offense. Giannis Antetokounmpo is obviously a threat to finish at the rim, but he has yet to develop a consistent mid-range jump shot. That is what has hurt the Bucks in the playoffs over the past two seasons. If they can’t beat a team from the perimeter, they don’t really have a plan B.
I like the value with the Lakers at +2 in this matchup.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
The biggest line move involves the Warriors. They were initially listed as 5.5-point favorites, but they’re down to just -4.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
That said, this line could swing back towards the Warriors soon. The Knicks saw some sharp activity when they were +5.5, but virtually all the money since then has come in on the Warriors. They’ve received a whopping 93% of the spread dollars on FanDuel Sportsbook compared to just 57% of the spread bets. The Warriors have won eight of their past 12 games after getting off to a slow start this season, while the Knicks have dropped five of their past seven contests.
BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL
Our betting model sees a significant edge in a few contests this evening, including the New York Knicks vs. the Golden State Warriors.