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The Milwaukee Bucks get a juicy matchup just as they're hitting their stride while the Utah Jazz looks to make a statement at home. NBA expert Jonathan Macri is here with his predictions and picks for Saturday.
ANALYSIS

Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Pelicans Prediction: Will the Defending Champs Start the New Year in High Fashion?

When: January 1, 6:30 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBA TV

Spread: Bucks -11

Total: 221.5

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Bucks vs. Pelicans Prediction

For most of this season, the defending champs have been lying in wait, biding their time until they got fully healthy (check), had some time to gel (check), and entered a portion of their schedule that would really allow them to get on a roll and do some damage.

In the midst of a five-game winning streak in which they’ve had the luxury of playing the Magic twice, the Rockets and the Luka-less Mavs – all covers – it appears that we can check that last box as well. Now, they get a few more easy ones before the schedule tightens up, with the Pelicans being the next victim on deck.

Not that New Orleans has been playing poorly. After a dreadful start to the season, the Pelicans have been two games over .500 since November 13. They’re also even against the spread in that time, with one of those wins and covers coming against the Bucks just two weeks ago.

There are, however, quite a few differences between that game and this one in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, neither of whom played for Milwaukee, and Jonas Valanciunas, who won’t play in this one for New Orleans but who utterly dominated the last matchup to the tune of 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The Pels are about six points per 100 possessions better when the big guy is on the court.

The Bucks also shot under 30 percent from deep in that one, which was played on the road. This game is in their own arena and they are fully healthy. The fact that they only lost the previous contest by four in overtime speaks to just how much confidence we should have in the defending champs this time around, even if they are giving double-digit points. Go with the favorite on New Year’s Day.

Bucks vs. Pelicans Pick

Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors Prediction

When: 9:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBA TV

Jazz vs Warriors Odds

Make that six in a row and 14 out of 16 wins for the Utah Jazz, who now own the best net rating in the league over their Saturday foe, the Warriors, and if they win this game, will be just a half-game behind Golden State for the best record in the NBA.

They have a good chance to make it happen, and possibly in convincing fashion. The Warriors may have Steph Curry in uniform, but he will be without his partner in crime, as Draymond Green is still in health and safety protocols. He missed the last game, a home loss against the Nuggets, and the result was perhaps unsurprisingly one of the worst offensive performances of their season.

Now, they go into the lion’s den and face the NBA’s hottest team and arguably its best. Utah is firing on all cylinders, with an offense that seems to be matchup proof and a defense that should be able to get it done against a Draymond-less Golden State squad. This line pays respect to the league’s best record and to the MVP favorite, but it’s not nearly enough given the Warriors’ yearlong net rating on the road: a good but not great positive 4.5. Give the points at home.

Jazz vs. Warriors Pick

Article Author

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NBA

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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