To kick off the 2023 Christmas slate, the Milwaukee Bucks (22-7) face the New York Knicks (16-12). Get Bucks vs. Knicks moneyline and spread odds, as well as predictions, starting lineups, injuries, and key matchups below.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks Prediction
Milwaukee soundly defeated New York by 19 points on December 23rd, so it’s confusing to once again get Bucks -2.5 here. It must be a Christmas present from the books, as the flaws remain the same for New York.
The Knicks lost their elite defense the moment Mitchell Robinson suffered a season-ending injury. Not only did he protect the rim at a high level, but Robinson’s monstrous defensive rebounding blocked opponents from snagging extra possessions.
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in restricted area field goal attempts per game, and he owns a massive 77.3 field goal percentage there (via NBA.com). Plus, Sixth Man of the Year contender Bobby Portis is a significant interior scoring threat off the bench. Antetokounmpo and Portis just dropped a combined 51 points on 20/31 from the field against New York, and they should once again bully the Knicks near the basket.
Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson’s inability to fight through screens allows the opponent to launch clean off-the-dribble threes. Therefore, Damian Lillard is a terrifying matchup based on his three-point shooting prowess. Across his last ten games, he has produced an impressive 46.6 3PT% on nearly nine attempts per game.
Finally, the Knicks must contend with Malik Beasley’s court-bending three-point shooting and Khris Middleton’s self-created scoring. Given the enormous amount of defensive attention that Antetokounmpo and Lillard command, Milwaukee’s supplementary pieces should achieve excellent shot quality. Overall, the Bucks are firing on all cylinders at the moment to the tune of a 125.9 Offensive Rating across their past ten games – this mark would easily lead the NBA.
Can New York’s offense keep pace? Jalen Brunson’s game is designed to capitalize on mid-range jumpers, and Milwaukee bleeds these attempts due to their porous point-of-attack defense and Brook Lopez’ desire to play a deep drop. Brunson scored 36 points on 15/26 shooting against the Bucks on Saturday, but the Knicks still lost by 19. RJ Barrett has not taken the scoring leap, and Julius Randle is not efficient enough or the necessary playmaker to be an excellent second option. New York simply doesn’t have the weapons to match Milwaukee.
The Bucks should once again win by a comfortable margin and open up the Christmas slate with a win.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks Prediction: Bucks -2.5 & Moneyline
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Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks Best Odds
The Bucks are slight 2.5 favorites in this matchup despite crushing the Knicks two days ago. New York must win here about 44 percent of the time for their +130 moneyline to be profitable in the long run.
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
New York Knicks Starting Lineup
Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks Injuries
Veteran Jae Crowder is out for the Bucks, while the Knicks will be without centers Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks Key Matchups
RJ Barrett’s Scoring
Barrett was my X Factor for New York going into the December 23rd matchup, and he proceeded to score 13 points on 5/17 shooting from the field. At this point, his self-created scoring dreams have turned into nightmares, and the spot up shooting isn’t dangerous enough to punish opponents.
Brunson and Randle are not potent enough to match Milwaukee’s All-NBA duo, so the Knicks have to win on the fringes in order to keep it competitive. That starts with Barrett, who has to notch at least 20 points on desirable efficiency for New York to cover.
Andre Jackson Jr
Milwaukee selected Jackson Jr with the 36th pick of the 2023 Draft, and the rookie has exceeded expectations. He has flashed tantalizing defensive chops as a 6’6” guard, which the Bucks desperately need given Lillard and Beasley’s deficiencies on that end of the court. Jackson Jr’s playmaking has also stood out, and it provides Milwaukee’s humming offense with yet another unselfish player that can find open shooters.
If the rookie can turn in a solid all-around performance, then Milwaukee’s bench sits in a far better position to match New York’s great depth.