Don’t be fooled that the Milwaukee Bucks were only 11 points better than the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Until a too-late response in the fourth quarter, the rampant young Bucks obliterated their Central Division rivals in a 108-97 rout with the kind of show that screams potential: punishing turnovers, scoring inside and out, and generally reminding us all that the days of consistent Thibs-level defence in Chicago are a thing very much of the past.
So will it be déjà vu all over again when the teams meet once again on Friday at the United Center? Probably. But such contests rarely follow a similar script, with the Bulls 7-4 at home and Milwaukee a dismal 3-6 on the road.
What is possible is that Chicago could match their 5-19 effort from three-point range which isn’t too far off their dismal 30.9% clip this season, one key reason why they’re 21st in offense at 102.6 points per game, even if they’re only allowing 99.8 (fifth overall).
And effort is, and has been of late, an issue for the Beata-Bulls, who have dropped five of seven, a stretch where they’ve conceded an average of 102.7, with matters so unpredictable that Nikola Mirotic was pummelled with a DNP-CD in Milwaukee.
All of which makes them tough to back against a Bucks team that is still learning but which is flourishing behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 30 on Thursday, and Jabari Parker, who added 28.
The Greek Freek has averaged 29 points and 12 boards over his last three, and even though he declared: “It’s hard to win back to back against the same team so we have to be focused”, it’s tough to see Chicago rising up with a handicap of -5.5 on Milwaukee worth a punt, especially if they can get off to another solid start.
Best bet: Go over 210.5 points in Milwaukee-Chicago
After a slump, the LA Clippers are ticking over once again with three straight wins headed to Miami on Friday before a trip to the Washington Wizards where they’re 1.33 to keep the streak going.
Los Angeles is a points magnet with only three of their last 18 games (including an off-trend losing 91-70 fluke against Indiana) delivering less than 200 points.
With the Wizards 21st in points allowed at 106.2 but scoring at a clip of 104.1, it figures to be end to end with a total points line of 210.5 a solid punt.