We haven’t yet reached the halfway point in the current NBA Season, but one of the most important matchups of the year already takes place. On Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks travel to Toronto to battle the Raptors.
The Bucks currently have the best record in the league. Milwaukee’s only lost 13 times after their Tuesday night victory over Detroit. Facing the Raptors on the road is a much taller task than battling the Pistons on the road.
Toronto started the season blazing hot. They’ve since cooled off some, but they’re only a game or two away from the top record in the East. If the Raptors can beat the Bucks on Thursday night, they’ll take a step closer to homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.
Bucks-Raptors is the first of two games on TNT’s Thursday night NBA telecast. The second has Philadelphia heading west to take on the Warriors. The 76ers have come a long way since sending some of the worst teams in NBA history to the court while Golden State is back to being the money favorite to win the championship.
A couple of other intriguing games take place on Jan. 31. Brooklyn heads to Texas to battle the San Antonio Spurs while the Lakers-Clippers happens with trade rumors swirling around the potential acquisition of Anthony Davis. We handicap both games.
One thing to note about Thursday’s matchups, an incredible cold front has hit the U.S. Midwest and is currently making its way east. Save for Lakers-Clippers, the cold front could disrupt travel. Don’t be surprised if the NBA cancels a few of the games scheduled for Jan. 31.
[Thursday, Jan. 31]
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors (8pm ET)
Even if you don’t plan on backing either team, you have to watch this matchup. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo gets the press, but the squad is deep. Giannis is a total team player as well. He leads the team in points, assists, and rebounds, but he makes sure that everyone can contribute.
The Bucks average 117 points per while holding opponents to 107. The real reason for their success is holding teams to a league best 43% from the field.
Toronto shoots 47% from the field overall and are truly one of the most versatile rosters in the entire league. Kawhi has found a home with the Raptors, so much so, that we’re not hearing any talk of Leonard leaving (for now). The Raptors’ top scorer contributes in ways that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Toronto beat Milwaukee 123-116 the last time these two battled. Surprisingly, the trends point to a different outcome: the Bucks are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 versus a team from the Atlantic, 8-3 ATS in their last 11 playing on a day of rest, and 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings in Toronto.
The Raptors are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 playing on 3 days of rest. Milwaukee’s the play to at least cover, and they could pull off the SU upset.
Thursday NBA Free Picks: Bucks ATS
Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs (8:30pm ET)
Remember De’Angelo Russell? The former Ohio State star was supposed to be the Lakers’ next great point-guard until…well…there was some team drama involved. Los Angeles might be kicking themselves. While Ball has yet to turn into the all everything point man the Lakers envisioned him being, Russell’s led the Nets to a 28-24 SU record. He leads his team in points and assists.
San Antonio’s top scorer, DeMar DeRozan, is listed as questionable for this game. Even if DeRozan plays, the Spurs might have trouble covering. Brooklyn is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous, 5-1 ATS in their last 6 following a straight up win, and 4-0 ATS in their last 4 following an ATS loss.
The Spurs show a few hot trends as well, including going 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 following an ATS loss, but they figure to get over played here. NBA handicappers should drive the spread to a number that forces us to back the road dog.
Thursday NBA Free Picks: Nets ATS
Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors (10:30pm ET)
In the 76ers’ holster are Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. The Warriors draw with Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins.
It’s obvious the Warriors have more to work with overall, but the NBA is about individual matchups. Draymond, who rested in Monday’s win over Indiana, can’t man up against both Embiid and Simmons. Neither Steph nor Klay can stick with Ben Simmons either, though Klay is more adept to the task.
It should be interesting to see how the individual matchups play out. Once we go to the trends, picking the winner ATS is obvious. Although Golden State shows the more hot trends, all the trends are at 6 games or less. The Warriors are 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 home games versus a team with a losing road record, 1-6 ATS in their last 7 at home following a road trip of 7 or more days, and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 on Thursday night.
Philadelphia is 22-8 ATS in their last 30 versus an NBA Pacific team, and 6-1 ATS in the last 7 meetings. The 76ers should cover. They might even take this on the moneyline but an east coast contender traveling to play the defending champions is sure to hold some value.
Thursday NBA Free Picks: 76ers ATS
L.A. Lakers at L.A. Clippers (10:30pm ET)
The Lakers’ season isn’t a disaster just yet, but it’s quickly becoming one. How bad has it gotten? As of Jan. 30, the Lakers are only a game ahead of Sacramento in the Pacific Division, LeBron continues to struggle with the groin injury, and now Kyle Kuzma is having issues with his hip.
Both are questionable to battle the rival Clippers on Thursday night. With Kuzma and The King both hurting, Brandon Ingram’s become the Lakers’ focal point offensively. But even Ingram, a second overall pick, is caught at the center of persistent trade rumors.
Ingram will play, but it shouldn’t matter. The Clippers dominated the Lakers 118-107 in the last matchup while LAL is 5-14 ATS in the last 19 meetings as the road team, 1-4 ATS in the last 5 overall, and 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 following a straight up loss.
Even if LeBron steps onto the court, he only figures to play for 10 minutes or so. The Clippers take this.
Thursday NBA Free Picks: Clippers ATS