It’s not uncommon to see even good teams play poorly in their final game of a long road trip. It’s less common to see the best team in the NBA convincingly beat by the one of the worst in any situation. That’s what happened to the Milwaukee Bucks the last time out. The Bucks ended a six game road trip with back to back losses. They lost to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City last Saturday night though they did (barely) manage to cover the number as +5 point underdogs. The last time Milwaukee beat the Jazz in Salt Lake City the Utah pointguard was John Stockton and the power forward was Karl Malone (it was 2001 for those of you scoring at home).
The questionable result came two days later in Phoenix. Things were moving right along as expected in the Bucks game against the Suns and the road team enjoyed a 10 point lead early in the fourth quarter. Inexplicably, however, the Suns would go on to outscore the Bucks 38-23 in the final twelve minutes to win going away 114-105. Kelly Oubre, Jr. paced Phoenix with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Oubre who is one of several promising young players on the otherwise moribund Suns put the rest of his teammates on notice after the game:
“We can’t back down when a team goes on a run. We’ve got to make our own, too, coming back at them.”
In the big picture, one loss probably doesn’t mean much for Milwaukee good or bad–not even a loss to a team that is 15-51 on the year and two games out of having the worst record in the league. The Bucks now head home to face a defensively tenacious Indiana Pacers team that leads the NBA in scoring defense (103.7 PPG allowed). Indiana has cooled off since early February when they won 8 of 9 SU going 7-2 ATS. They’ve lost 3 of 5 both straight up and against the spread and desperately need to regain some momentum.
They’re in a tough spot to do so. They’ve been a bad ATS investment on the road this season going 13-17-1 to the number though they are 17-14 SU. As a road underdog they’ve really struggled going 6-11 SU/7-10 ATS. Milwaukee, meanwhile, has been dominant at home going 25-5 SU/17-13 ATS. They’ve been a solid favorite in all situations (43-13 SU/31-23-2 ATS) but particularly at home where they’re 24-5 SU when laying points (though just 16-13-0 ATS). Much of the Bucks’ success has been their ability to dominate the other challengers in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee is 32-8 SU/25-13-2 ATS against the East this year.
The most concerning ATS situational stat if you’re the Indiana Pacers is Milwaukee’s performance coming off a straight up loss. In this situation they’re 14-1 SU/12-3 ATS this season. This is a hallmark of good teams in any sport–the ability to come back strong after a substandard performance. Factor in the reality that the Bucks lost to a team that has won only 15 games this season last time out and it could be a long night for the visitor. In theory, the concept of taking double digits with a good defensive team like Indiana is a sound one. The situation looks too strong for the Bucks here.