The Milwaukee Bucks are a classic contrarian NBA pick this Friday when they visit the Brooklyn Nets minus Kyrie Irving – or are they?
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Friday, January 07, 2022 – 07:30 PM EST at Barclays Center
Well, the Nets went and did it: Kyrie Irving was back in uniform Wednesday night. Still, presumably unvaccinated, Irving started and played 32 minutes against the Indiana Pacers, scoring 22 points as Brooklyn won 129-121.
Unfortunately for Nets supporters, that wasn’t quite enough to cover the 8.5-point spread on the closing NBA lines. This could be a pattern going forward. It won’t matter this Friday, though. The Nets (24-12 SU, 15-21 ATS) will be back at Barclays Center, which means Irving will not be allowed on the floor to face the Milwaukee Bucks (25-15 SU, 18-22 ATS). And this is a Bucks team that will have Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the lineup.
SugarHouse has Milwaukee priced at +3.5 on their NBA odds board at the top sportsbooks after the Bucks opened at +2.5; in theory, it’s an old-school “follow” spot for the road dogs, at least for a small wager.
It’s even more of a “fade” spot for Brooklyn. Despite the omicron wave forcing a steady stream of replacement players through their revolving door, the Nets wouldn’t have changed tack and turned to Irving on a part-time basis if they hadn’t been desperate enough.
Yes, they’re on top of the Atlantic Division standings, but they’re also 10th overall in offensive efficiency at 108.8 points scored per 100 possessions, a full point behind the Bucks in seventh. Conveniently enough for our handicapping needs, the Nets (104.8, No. 6) are also one point better than Milwaukee (105.8, No. 11) at the defensive end.
If we treat these teams as equal commodities, which seems reasonable, the Bucks are the obvious choice for our NBA picks at +3.5, since the home-court advantage is only worth about 1.25 points these days.
As always, though, there are complicating factors. Just as Antetokounmpo (non-COVID illness) returns from his one-game absence, Jrue Holiday has entered league protocol. Barring a change in league policy – and those changes have been coming hot and heavy – Holiday won’t be available for Friday’s game.
Neither will four of his potential replacements. George Hill, Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton are all supposed to be in protocol until at least next Tuesday; Donte DiVincenzo is also back on the injured list after rolling his gimpy left ankle this past Sunday.
With Holiday out of the mix, Milwaukee might have to hand even more guard minutes to Rodney Hood and Javonte Smart, which is hardly ideal.
On top of that, the Bucks have reportedly requested waivers on DeMarcus Cousins, even though he’s played solid basketball for them since signing on in late November.
Given that Milwaukee is intentionally taking on short-term pain for what they hope will be long-term gain in the form of an open roster spot, maybe the Bucks aren’t such a great pick after all.
But since their backcourt is so thin, and since Brooklyn won’t have Irving in theirs, let’s roll with the under – provided you like the total you see once it hits the board.
NBA Pick: Under 229.5 (-110) at BetMGM