The inaugural NBA in-season tournament is set to tip off, giving teams another shot at a trophy. The first stage of group play features the New York Knicks visiting the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET) at Fiserv Forum.
Following their blockbuster acquisition of Damian Lillard this offseason, Milwaukee is a +850 co-favorite to win the in-season tournament. New York, meanwhile, is a bit further down the list at +2000.
The majority of the betting public is also focused on the Bucks in this matchup, pricing them as 5.5-point favorites (-110) and -230 on the moneyline. Conversely, New York is +5.5 (-110) on the spread and +190 to win outright. Let’s take a closer look at the Knicks vs Bucks betting odds.
Location: Fiserv Forum; Milwaukee
Knicks vs Bucks Betting Trends
The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the most profitable teams among bettors last season, with a 44-37-6 record ATS. They also hit the Over 54% of the time. This year, they’re just 1-3 ATS.
The New York Knicks were in a similar boat last season, going 50-39-4 ATS. Their 56.2% cover rate was the fourth highest in the NBA. They’re 2-2-1 this year. That’s important to remember when assessing the Knicks vs Bucks betting odds.
New York Trending in Right Direction
The New York Knicks are off to a 2-3 start after dropping the second half of a back-to-back with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. A 5.5-point favorite, New York shot a season-low 34.8% (5 of 30 from 3-point range) in the 95-89 loss. RJ Barrett, one of New York’s top offensive threats, did not play because of knee soreness.
On the heels of a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals in the 2023 NBA playoffs bracket, expectations for the Knicks are reasonably high compared to previous seasons. The Knicks are projected for 44.5 wins, a total they’ve surpassed just once since 2012-13. They’re also +1000 to win the Atlantic Division and +1800 to make the NBA Finals.
Jalen Brunson remains the focal point of New York’s offense alongside Julius Randle, a two-time All-Star coming off his most productive season (career-high 25.1 points per game in 2022-23). That said, Barrett’s absence showcased the need for New York to add another capable scorer.
New York is off to a solid start defensively, ranking third in the NBA in scoring (102 points allowed per game). Opponents are shooting just 44.8% against New York, down from 46.2% a season ago.
When analyzing the Knicks vs Bucks betting odds, be sure to monitor Barrett’s status. The fifth-year guard reportedly tweaked his knee in the season opener, and he’s been managing it since. He was a game-time decision against Cleveland, and his status for Friday has yet to be updated. Barrett, who’d played 25 minutes in Tuesday’s win, is shooting 9 of 21 from 3 to start the season.
No Panic Around Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Bucks are off to an inauspicious 2-2 start under new head coach Adrian Griffin. While it’s incredibly early, the Bucks have some glaring issues defensively. They’ve allowed an average of 122 points through four games, the third most in the NBA.
Milwaukee’s coming off a 130-111 loss to the Toronto Raptors Wednesday. A 4-point favorite, it failed to cover the spread for the third time already.
Despite those issues, bettors shouldn’t overreact. The NBA is a star-driven league, and Milwaukee has two of the very best in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Antetokounmpo, who’s averaging 24.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks, is priced as high as +650 to win NBA MVP after finishing third in the voting last season. Lillard isn’t too far behind at +1800.
Even if the Bucks’ defensive issues persist, they have enough scoring to beat practically anybody. It’s been that way since the NBA preseason. Oddsmakers seem to agree. The Bucks are a +175 co-favorite in the Eastern Conference and +400 to win the NBA Finals, trailing only the Boston Celtics (+375) by a smidge. Their projected win total of 52.5 is third-highest in the league.
Milwaukee should only get better once Lillard gels with his new teammates.
Handicapping the Game
The Bucks own some of the best NBA odds to win a championship. It’s no secret why. Antetokounmpo and Lillard are perennial MVP candidates, and they have a strong supporting cast. While they have obvious issues defensively, it’s something that can be fixed.
This is a prime buy-low spot against the Knicks, especially while Barrett’s dealing with a sore knee. Look for Milwaukee to take care of business at home against a fellow Eastern Conference contender.