The addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Portland lineup did not, it turns out, yield immediate results. (Or, at least, not the results the Portland brass had been hoping to achieve.) The Blazers lost for the eighth time in the last 10 games in Anthony’s debut on Tuesday, which saw his return to an NBA lineup for the first time in more than a year. Anthony wasn’t shy about inserting himself into the offense but made only four of his 14 attempts for 10 points and a minus-20 plus/minus on the night.
Portland was without star guard Damian Lillard (back spasms) in that one and will be without him again on Thursday as the Blazers face Milwaukee, the fourth-best defensive team in the league. The Pelicans, Portland’s opponent on Tuesday, are 26th in defensive efficiency and held the Blazers to 104 points on 43.5 percent shooting with 17 turnovers.
That’s not good news heading into the buzzsaw that the Bucks have been in the last few weeks, with Milwaukee winning nine of its last 10 outings. The Bucks have been without Khris Middleton (thigh) and had to hold off the young Hawks on Wednesday, but 33 points on 17 field-goal attempts from Giannis Antetokounmpo, plus 17-for-43 shooting from the 3-point line as a team, ensured the win.
Blazers vs. Bucks Preview
At 5-10, Portland’s season is quickly fading and without Lillard, they’ve got little chance to pull an upset in Milwaukee. Still, they’re not as bad a team as they’ve been lately, losing their last two games by nine points in New Orleans and 24 in Houston. This is the fourth game of a tough six-game trip for the Blazers and at the very least, they need a good showing going into winnable games in Cleveland and Chicago to close the trip.
This will be the second game of a back-to-back for the Bucks and the first of a homestand that follows a run of seven out of eight on the road. Both should count as red flags for a letdown, especially with a cumbersome line, at 13.5 points according to Fanduel.com. They won’t lose this one—the Blazers have no one who can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, after all—but Portland is ripe for a good effort and the Bucks could be in for a snoozer. That would buck some recent trends, most notably the Blazers’ 1-5 record ATS in their last six road games and their 3-12-1 ATS record against the Bucks in their last 16 meetings.
But the Blazers have good shooters and if they maintain their 3-point stroke from Tuesday (55.2 percent from the arc) and limit turnovers, they can stay in the game. That number is just too big to assume a Milwaukee cover, even without Lillard.
A safer bet might be the over, set fairly high at 233 points. Milwaukee closed its trip by allowing 127 points to the Hawks in Atlanta and could be a bit lethargic to finish the back-to-back.
Blazers vs. Bucks Pick & Prediction
PICK: Blazers, plus-13.5
SCORE PREDICTION: Bucks 124, Blazers 115