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Harden Drama Looms over 76ers Opener Against Bucks, Lillard

While the Milwaukee Bucks plan to celebrate the team debut of their star guard, the Philadelphia 76ers might be wondering if they’ll ever see theirs again. Damian Lillard plays his first regular-season game for the Bucks on Thursday against a 76ers squad that figures to be without James Harden, who continues to demand a trade while staying away from the team….

We’ll focus on who’s available when analyzing the NBA picks and spreads. Below are some recommendations on the game and a couple of prop bets to get you going on Thursday.

ATS Games of the Week: Two Underdogs to Deliver
ATS Games of the Week: Two Underdogs to Deliver

Lillard, Antetokounmpo Tandem Raises Expectations in Milwaukee

With Lillard on board and Giannis inked to a new extension, it’s all systems go in Brew City. The Bucks are at +400 on the NBA title odds page and will remain a popular selection all season among NBA ATS picks. For this one, they’re six-point favorites and a solid option for a bet online.

We won one championship, but I believe that we can win a second,” Antetokounmpo told the media after signing his three-year extension, which is designed to win with the veteran core he has around him now.

The Bucks flamed out in the first round of the playoffs against the eighth-seeded Miami Heat. In came Adrian Griffin to replace Mike Budenholzer, then Lillard and a handful of supporting pieces to round out a top-notch roster that’s aiming for greater heights.

Meanwhile, the circus surrounding Harden continues. He showed up Wednesday after a long stretch away from the team, but was told he wouldn’t be coming along for the trip to Milwaukee or to Toronto to face the Raptors on Saturday. The official absence for this game and the next will be due to “reconditioning,” which may be necessary but we know it’s so much more than that.

This has rendered the Sixers one of the biggest question marks in the league. If everyone’s on board, they’re a title contender. They might also finish around .500 and then blow the whole thing up.

There’s just too much going on in that locker room to expect a perfectly focused crew on the court in Milwaukee. Take the Bucks, give the points and enjoy the Giannis-Dame show.

NBA Pick: Bucks -6

76ers vs Bucks Betting Odds

76ers-Bucks Prop Bets

Tyrese Maxey over 22.5 points

This is the year Maxey goes from budding star to a legit All-Star, especially if he’s asked to shoulder more of the scoring load with Harden, perhaps, out of the mix for a bit.

Maxey averaged 20.3 points last season, up from 17.5 in 2021-22, but he posted 21.7 points PPG in a 25-game span down the stretch before a late injury. He then overcame that injury to put up 20.5 in the playoffs.

We think Maxey’s all-around offensive game will continue to improve and he’ll be a big scorer at times this season. The fact that he averaged 23.5 on 62% shooting against Milwaukee last season gives us reason to believe that the opener will be a big one for him, and a solid choice for your NBA picks.

Giannis player double (5 assists and a Bucks win)

Antetokounmpo has had some scoring options around him in the past, but nothing like Lillard. You can expect Giannis to want to get his new running partner in the mix as much as possible early on, rallying the fans behind the newcomer.

Giannis has averaged just under six assists in each of the last five seasons. There’s no reason to believe he won’t hit that number (or higher) in a feel-good opener for Milwaukee. On our basketball odds sheet, you can bump up the assists total in this player double bet and increase your payout.

It’s not too wild to go up to seven assists and a Bucks win at +200.

76ers vs Bucks Game Information

  • Game: Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks
  • Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • 76ers vs Bucks Live Stream: NFL Game Pass



Questions of the Day

Which player is likely to get the most assists in the game?

Lillard is the safest bet with an over/under at 7.5. Don’t sleep on Embiid, who had 10 assists in a game against Milwaukee last season.
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What are two of the best player props for the game?

Embiid to have at least 4.5 assists and for Khris Middleton to make at least two 3-pointers.
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