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Bucks vs 76ers NBA betting picks and predictions: Make money on Milwaukee’s motivation

The Milwaukee Bucks visit the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night, aiming to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The NBA odds have the Bucks set as 5-point road favorite against a Sixers squad playing the second night of back-to-back games after losing to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday.

We size up the NBA odds and give our best bets and predictions for Milwaukee at Philadelphia.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (+5, 231)

QUICK HITTER

There’s no love lost between these teams, especially with the NBA Playoffs creeping closer. That latest beef is between each team’s respective All-Star big men: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

These players had an epic duel on St. Patrick’s Day, with Antetokounmpo scoring 52 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a losing effort to Philadelphia, which was paced by Embiid’s 40 points and 15 boards.

Later that week, Embiid would hang 37 points and 22 rebounds on the Boston Celtics and proclaimed himself the “most unstoppable player in the league”. That didn’t sit well with the “Greek Freak”.

“If he believes he’s the most unstoppable player in the NBA that’s good for him,” Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Obviously, he’s a really, really good player. … He’s a hard player to guard. I think, like, other people should say that about you; you don’t say that about yourself.”

Embiid is expected back for this home stand after missing the Sixers’ recent three-game road trip due to knee tendinitis, setting up a showdown between these towering talents. Both the 76ers and Bucks will look to get their big guys going early, so think about tossing a small flyer on both Embiid and Antetokounmpo to score the first basket of the game with both paying 4/1 or higher.

PREDICTION:First basket of the game: Embiid +450/Antetokounmpo +400 at PointsBet

FIRST HALF BET

The Bucks and Sixers are known for their quick starts, with Philadelphia ranking as the top first-quarter offense in the NBA and leading the Eastern Conference in first-half production (59.9 points per half). The Bucks aren’t that far behind, averaging 58.8 points in the first 24 minutes of action.

And the fact the Sixers are playing the second game of back-to-back outings won’t matter – at least not in the first half – with their offensive production staying on par in their previous games on zero rest. While Thursday’s game does hold playoff implications for Milwaukee (Sixers pretty much locked in No. 3 seed), and these team will settle in on defense in the second half, the pace will be fast and frenzied early on.

PREDICTION: First half Over 112.5 (-110)

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TEAM/PLAYER PROP BET

Milwaukee is showing the wear and tear of the long NBA season, with a laundry list of ailments to key players. One of those guys dealing with nagging injuries is forward Khris Middleton, who is expected to play Thursday after missing the previous two games with a groin injury.

Middleton had a monster game against the Clippers before sitting out road games at Atlanta and Brooklyn, scoring 39 points and pulling in nine rebounds. For March, the small forward averaged 20.7 points per game and will find plenty of room to operate with Philly focused on stopping Antetokounmpo.

The Sixers give up an average of 78.2 points per game to forwards on the season – most in the NBA – and Middleton has tallied point totals of 19 and 25 versus the 76ers this season. He’s had six days off between games and will be fresh for Thursday.

PREDICTION:Khris Middleton Over 18.5 points (-118) at PointsBet

FULL GAME TOTAL

The Bucks need this game a lot more than the Sixers do, especially if they want to rest their weary legs over the final three games of the season. With a victory, Milwaukee will earn the top spot in the East, home court through to the conference finals, and that luxury to put their feet up until the first round of the playoffs.

The Bucks were on cruise control in their last two outings, road games versus Atlanta and Brooklyn, resting up players and managing minutes in preparation for this key matchup in Philadelphia. Milwaukee gave up 122 points in regulation to the Hawks and 121 points to the Nets, well above their season-long defensive average of 108.6 points against.

As mentioned above, I do see both sides playing a quicker pace in the opening two quarters before turning up the intensity of defense – namely from the Bucks. If all goes according to plan, this will be Milwaukee’s last chance to get into that postseason frame of mind. The Sixers will push back, giving up just 109.8 points per home game – a difference of more than five points compared to their defense away from Philly.

PREDICTION: Under 230

FULL GAME SIDE

There’s plenty of added motivation for Milwaukee heading into Thursday’s matchup with the Sixers: No. 1 in the East, home court in the postseason, potential downtime, Giannis’ war of words with Embiid. The Bucks set themselves up to have all hands on deck for this game by resting players the past two contests and have been off since Monday.

The 76ers, on the other hand, are playing their second straight game, their third in four nights, have just as many players dealing with nagging ailments, and can’t really move up or down in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (barring some miracles) with a big gap between them and Toronto and a cushion lead on Boston.

If Milwaukee pushes hard enough, Philadelphia might just say “uncle”. It’s just 3-8 ATS in its 11 games without rest on the season and is just 2-5 ATS in its last seven games overall, playing those games against opponents well below the Bucks’ level of competition. Milwaukee has covered in 13 of its last 18 road games and is 5-1-2 ATS in its last eight games on two-days rest.

PREDICTION: Milwaukee -5

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