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Bucks/Bulls & Jazz/Suns Parlay Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
NBA Parlay Picks of the Day

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls
Friday, April 30, 2021 at 9 p.m. ET at United Center in Chicago

The Importance of Zach LaVine

Chicago leading scorer Zach LaVine remains absent due to health and safety protocols.

His absence creates a persisting void in Chicago’s guard play on offense.

This void is and will continue to be apparent in the Bulls’ pick-and-roll game, which is a relatively prominent component of their offensive style.

More than most teams, the Bulls like to set screens for their ball-handler.

They did this primarily for LaVine, who, based on PPP (points per possession), was Chicago’s most efficient scoring option in this play type.

Without LaVine, they will still set a lot of screens for their ball-handler.

Instead of LaVine, the main ball-handler is Coby White. White, however, averages .14 PPP fewer than LaVine in the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler.

Fellow guard Tomas Satoransky is only marginally more efficient than White while seeing less of opposing starting lineups.

LaVine’s absence will be more strongly felt today because of Milwaukee’s conservative ball-screen defense.

The Bucks’ ball-screen defense does not tend to deter opposing ball-handlers, which is why the Bucks allow opponents to run such a high frequency of pick-and-roll plays for the ball-handler.

But without LaVine, the Bulls lack any dangerous ball-handler who can make Milwaukee’s ball-screen defense pay.

Chicago Offense vs. Milwaukee Interior Defense

In addition to running ball-screens for the ball-handler, the Bulls love to attack the basket.

They attempt the ninth-most field goals within five feet of the basket.

White, for example, will try to use his speed in order to drive inside.

This reliance on scoring inside is problematic, however, against Milwaukee’s defense.

The Buck rim protection is aided by its conservative ball-screen coverage, which enables big Buck defenders to hang back in the paint and remain close to the rim.

Moreover, the Bucks like to send more help defense inside.

With this focus on protecting the basket, Milwaukee allows the second-fewest field goal attempts and fourth-lowest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket.

The way to beat the Buck defense is from behind the arc. But Chicago, especially without the very efficient LaVine, is inefficient from behind the arc.

Bouncing Back

If you are prone to recency bias, don’t look at Milwaukee’s last game.

For the 18th time, the Bucks allowed 119+ points in a loss.

I like the Buck defense tonight also because they tend to bounce back after a poor defensive effort.

They have allowed fewer than 100 points seven times in the game following such a loss. In three additional games in this situation, they allowed 110 points or fewer.

Milwaukee Offense vs. Chicago Defense

Milwaukee’s offense is largely reliant on converting three-point opportunities.

Giannis is a big part of the Bucks’ drive-and-kick game. Even just his presence inside helps Milwaukee shooters enjoy more space behind the arc.

But Giannis left yesterday’s game with a sprained ankle and he did not return. He is listed as ‘questionable’ for tonight’s game.

Even if the perennial MVP candidate is absent, the Bucks will still want to knock down a lot of threes. They attempt the seventh-most three-pointers per game.

Chicago, however, allows the sixth-lowest rate of open three-point attempts and the eight-lowest rate of wide open ones.

So the Bulls will give Milwaukee trouble for attempting to score in a way it prefers to.

Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns
Friday, April 30, 2021 at 10 p.m. ET at PHX Arena in Phoenix

Utah Ball-Screens vs. Phoenix Ball-Screen Defense

More than any other team, Utah likes to run ball-screens for its ball-handler.

Typically, this ball-handler will be Donovan Mitchell or Mike Conley.

While Mitchell’s ankle continues to keep him from playing, Conley has newly been ruled ‘out’ for tonight’s game with a hamstring injury.

So Utah will miss its top ball-handlers and its top ball-handling options in its favored pick-and-roll game.

Utah’s remaining options in the pick-and-roll game will have to contend with Phoenix’s top-level ball-screen defense.

The Suns allow the fewest PPP against the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler.

Utah Offense vs. Phoenix Perimeter Defense

Offensively, Utah is uniquely reliant on the three-pointer. The Jazz attempt by far more threes than any other team.

Perimeter defense, however, is a strength of the Sun defense, which allows the sixth-fewest made threes per game.

Encouraged by interior anchor Deandre Ayton’s willingness and ability to clean up any messes at the basket, Sun perimeter defenders hang close to potential shooters.

High-quality defenders like Mikal Bridges also use their versatility to switch on ball-screens, which is useful against a Jazz offense that likes its shooters to come off of screens.

By switching, Phoenix has a conceptually simple yet effective response to opposing screens.

Phoenix Offense vs. Utah Defense

On defense, Utah is driven by analytics. So the Jazz focus on protecting the rim and on limiting opposing three-point opportunities.

Phoenix, however, attempts the fewest field goals at the basket. The Suns also do not rely on three-point shooting.

Instead, they focus on their mid-range game, with which they match up optimally against a Utah defense that is most vulnerable in the mid-range where it allows more and easier scoring opportunities.

For Phoenix, Chris Paul is one guy who characteristically dissects a defense en route to a mid-range shot attempt.

Teammate Devin Booker is another efficient mid-range option who gladly lives in this area between the three-point line and the basket.

Parlay Verdict

Potentially two missing star scorers will limit the offensive ceiling of both Milwaukee and Chicago.

I mostly like the “under” between these two teams, however, because of Milwaukee’s stout interior defense, Chicago’s lack of options in its ball-screen game, and the Bulls’ attentive perimeter defense.

The Suns, too, will mount a solid defensive effort in which they ride their top-level ball-screen defense and limit Utah’s three-point shooting.

Offensively, the Suns will thrive in the mid-range game, exploiting Utah’s defensive focus on the rim and on the perimeter.

Best Bet: Bucks/Bulls “under” & Suns ATS (Odds TBA)