The Boston Celtics head to Fiserv Forum on Thursday night to face off against the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time this season. Back in Week 2, the Celtics beat the Bucks 116-105 as 3.5-point home underdogs to snap a four-game losing streak in head-to-head encounters. Boston will have a tall task to beat the Bucks once more, as the Celtics will play back-to-back after hosting Detroit on Wednesday night. Also, the Bucks are looking completely unstoppable at the moment.
The Celtics are without Robert Williams (hip). Jayson Tatum missed the clash against the Pistons on Wednesday, but he should be back for the clash against the Bucks. On the other side, Milwaukee is coming in full strength.
Milwaukee opened as a firm 8.5-point fave with the total at 223.5 points. I’m not surprised to see the Bucks as heavy favorites because they are playing at home, but it still seems like the bookies underestimated the Celtics.
What’s at Stake?
The Bucks are running away with No. 1 seed in the East, so the Celtics desperately need to pull off an upset. Boston was seven games behind Milwaukee on Wednesday, sitting at the second spot of the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics entered their clash against the Pistons on a two-game winning streak. They’ve outlasted New Orleans 140-105 and Chicago 113-101 at home. The Bucks are riding a four-game win streak following a 128-102 home victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.
The main task for the Celtics is to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they also have to find a way to score against the best defense in the NBA. The Bucks surrender just 101.7 points per 100 possessions (1st in the league) on 41.2% shooting from the field (also 1st) and 36.5% from beyond the arc (23rd). They allow 36.4 attempts from deep per 100 possessions which are the third-most in the NBA, and that tells you a lot about the Bucks’ interior defense.
The Bucks are long and physical, but they could have some problems with the Celtics’ backcourt and wings. Boston scores 112.0 points per 100 possessions (6th) while making 35.5% of their 3-pointers (15th). Kemba Walker (21.7 PPG, 5.1 APG), Jayson Tatum (21.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG), Jaylen Brown (19.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG), and Gordon Hayward (16.0 PPG, 4.2 APG) all can step up and score a bunch of points. Tatum had 41 points against New Orleans on weekend.
The Bucks, on the other side, tally 113.7 points per 100 possessions (3rd) on 47.9% shooting from the field (2nd) and 35.4% from downtown (18th). Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.0 PPG, 12.7 RPG) is enjoying a wonderful season, and the reigning MVP had 37 points and nine boards in just 21 minutes on the floor against the Knicks.
As well as the Bucks, the Celtics are a tough defensive team, surrendering only 104.8 points per 100 possessions (4th) on 44.1% shooting from the field (6th). Boston allows 42.9 points in the paint per game which are the third-fewest in the NBA, but the Bucks are leading the league with 38.1 points in the paint allowed per contest.
I expect to see a tight game, but the Bucks should outlast the Celtics on the home court. Also, the Bucks should be fired up to get payback for that loss at TD Garden in October. We’re still waiting for the lines, but I suggest you take the Bucks to cover. Milwaukee is 4-1 SU and ATS in its last five meetings with the Celtics and is 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS in the previous seven encounters in Wisconsin. However, if the bookies underestimate the Celtics and set the spread around 7.5 points, don’t hesitate to buy a few points and take the hosts at slightly lower wages.
When it comes to the totals, I’m backing the under. The Bucks are playing at the fastest pace in the league, averaging 104.7 possessions per 48 minutes. If they want to upset the hosts, the Celtics will have to slow down the tempo. Boston is recording 99.3 possessions per 48 minutes (17th in the league). The under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings between Boston and Milwaukee including the previous three matchups. Also, I hope the bookies will set the line sky-high.