Update: Antetokounmpo is in for the Bucks, which changes the calculus completely for this contest. With the Greek Freak set to start, the Bucks are now 7-point favorites and we’ll take Milwaukee ATS. The total is now 223.5, and we’ll maintain our pick on the over.
With most of the NBA already returned to action from another underwhelming All-Star break, two of the Eastern Conference’s premier teams will clash on Friday night in America’s Dairyland. Traveling north, the Miami Heat (32-27) will head to Fiserv Forum to tangle with the Milwaukee Bucks (41-17). So far this season, the Heat bested the Bucks in two of three meetings, losing the lone contest in Milwaukee by a score of 123-115 earlier this month.
When they are right, the Bucks are one of the most complete teams in basketball. As it is now, they will likely be without their leader and two-time NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo (wrist). Guards Pat Connaughton and Wesley Matthews are also unlikely to suit up for the Bucks. For Miami, Kyle Lowry is still out indefinitely with an ailing knee. The Heat will also be lacking in length on Friday night, as big men Nikola Jovic (back) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle) tend to respective injuries.
At DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucks are 4-point favorites. The total is 222, the lowest number on the board for Friday’s eight-game slate. On the moneyline, the Bucks show a price of -170 while the Heat are +145.
Heat vs. Bucks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Pick ATS: Heat +4
If Antetokounmpo were dressed to play, this would obviously be a different selection. However, through three previous meetings this season, Miami has matched up respectively with Milwaukee, defeating the Bucks twice last month (108-102, then 111-95 two days later). I respect Milwaukee as a well-rounded team, but without their offensive and defensive leader, my lean is on Miami to cover. On the year, the Heat are currently 13-17 on the road straight up, while playing to 13-16-1 ATS when away from Miami. For the Bucks, they have dominated when playing in their own arena, winning 24 of 29 games in Wisconsin this year. Yet, against the spread, Milwaukee is a less-intimidating 18-11 at home.
Over/Under: Over 222
Being that 222 is the lowest total of Friday’s eight-game set, the initial inclination should be to play the over. Yes, two of the three meetings between Milwaukee and Miami this season have resulted in less points than that but considering their most recent head-to-head contest, over 222 feels like the safer side on Friday night.