The NBA’s All-Star player draft is Thursday night on TNT when team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will select their teams in alternating order. James and Antetokounmpo will make their picks without regard for a player’s conference affiliation or position. The captains must pick from the pool of starters first, and LeBron gets that No. 1 overall choice. Might he take Lakers teammate Anthony Davis? Should be interesting. Here’s a look at two intriguing early-week NBA matchups. Check back for NBA betting odds.
Top NBA Betting Picks of the Week – February 3rd Edition
Milwaukee at New Orleans
- When: Tuesday, 7:30 PM ET (TNT)
Assuming both are healthy by Tuesday, this will be the first-ever matchup between arguably the NBA’s two biggest athletic freaks in Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP and favorite to win another, and New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Both have gifts that perhaps no other NBA player ever has. Too bad they will only meet twice a season for the foreseeable future being in opposite conferences.
When the Bucks routed the Pelicans 127-112 on Dec. 11 in Milwaukee, Giannis was out with a minor injury and Zion had yet to make his season debut off knee surgery. Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton each had 24 points. Bledsoe was 10-for-13 from the field and had six assists. Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova, starting in place of Antetokounmpo, had 18 points and nine rebounds. The Bucks hit six of their first eight attempts from 3-point range, including 3 of 3 by Bledsoe, to take a 28-12 lead and really the game already was over. New Orleans got 31 points from J.J. Redick. Brandon Ingram had 25 points and 10 rebounds and point guard Jrue Holiday added 21 points.
In two games against New Orleans last season, Antetokounmpo averaged 24.5 points on .577 shooting from the floor, 8.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.0 steals. Alvin Gentry is 21-12 (.636) all-time against Milwaukee. Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer is 8-5 (.615) all-time against New Orleans.
Milwaukee is in the midst of its longest winning streak against New Orleans having won three straight games. Should they win here, it would mark the team’s second season series win, and first back-to-back season series win over the Pelicans in franchise history.
The Bucks are on pace to join the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the only teams in NBA history to win 70 games. Antetokounmpo is currently averaging career-highs in points and rebounds per game this season in addition to dishing out more than five assists and shooting 55% from the field. He’s going to win MVP again and somehow manages to get better every year. In addition to Antetokounmpo improving on his MVP-winning numbers from last season, he currently has the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in league history.
Indiana at Toronto
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 PM ET (NBA League Pass)
Could be an Eastern Conference playoff preview.
The Pacers got a lot better last Wednesday when All-Star guard Victor Oladipo returned for the first time in a little over a year (375 days) from a major injury suffered in January 2019. In clutch fashion, Oladipo made a 3-pointer from the left wing with 10.3 seconds remaining to force overtime in his team’s 115-106 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bulls in his debut.
Oladipo has now made a 3-pointer to tie or give the Pacers the lead in the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime three times since the start of the 2018 season. That is tied with Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. for the most in the NBA. Oladipo had not played in an NBA contest since he sustained a gruesome ruptured quad tendon in his right knee on Jan. 23, 2019, against the Toronto Raptors. The Pacers are going to limit his minutes until at least the All-Star break, but Indiana now is a legit Eastern contender.
“The thing is to be slow with him,” Coach Nate McMillan said. “We’re not concerned about now, we’re concerned about the future for Victor and that he plays a long time in a Pacers uniform.” McMillan also hinted that Aaron Holiday may not be a consistent part of the rotation moving forward with the Pacers getting healthy again.
This is the second of four regular-season meetings between the Pacers and Raptors – they play again Friday in Toronto. The Pacers won the first 120-115 in OT at home on Dec. 23. Both teams missed potential game-winning shots in the final minute of regulation. Holiday’s fourth 3-pointer of the game gave the Pacers a 116-113 lead with 2:05 remaining in overtime. His fifth and final 3-pointer provided a 119-115 advantage with 54 seconds remaining. Holiday finished with 19 points. The Pacers set a franchise record with 42 3-pointers attempted.
Raptors star forward Pascal Siakam, who was named an All-Star starter this year, missed the game due to injury. So did Marc Gasol. Toronto hasn’t lost the season series against Indiana since 2011-12. Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is having a fine season, also was out injured.
Expert NBA Betting Picks
Pelicans cover (but don’t win) and Raptors roll.