Last Updated: 2019-02-21
The All-Star break has come to an end, and we’ll see a big game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Thursday night when the Boston Celtics visit the league leaders Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics are tied with Philadelphia at the No. 4 seed in the East 6.5 games behind the Bucks who are leading the race one game ahead of Toronto.
The Celtics will face off against the Bucks for the third time this season, and the series is tied after a couple of games at TD Garden in Boston. The Celtics beat the Bucks 117-113 as 2.5-point favorites on November 1, 2018, while Milwaukee won 120-107 as a 1.5-point fave on December 21, 2018, which was the Bucks’ first victory at TD Garden after six straight losses.
The Celtics are coming to Wisconsin with a few questionable players. Gordon Hayward (ankle) suffered an injury in a workout on Tuesday, but he’ll be keen to play after some strong displays prior to the All-Star Weekend. Terry Rozier is recovering from illness, while Aron Baynes could be back from his foot injury. On the other side, the Bucks should count on all their players including Nikola Mirotic (calf) who stated he’s ready to make a debut Thursday night.
The Bucks opened as 5-point favorites with the total at 228.0 points and the Celtics at +190 money line odds. Milwaukee is 11-2 straight up and 8-5 ATS in its last 13 games at home, and the under is 8-5 during that span. The Celtics have won their last four games on the road, but they are just 5-6 straight up and 3-7-1 ATS in the last 11 showings away from home. The under has hit in Boston’s previous six tilts on the road.
What’s at Stake?
This is a big game for both Boston and Milwaukee, as the Celtics are trying to keep the pace with Indiana at the 3rd spot while battling with the Sixers, and the Bucks are looking to stay at the top of the conference with the Raptors on their tail. Also, the Bucks would like to show they are the best team in the East by beating the Celtics once again.
With seven days to rest around the All-Star Game, this is a perfect spot for the derby matchup. The Bucks are coming off a 106-97 victory at Indiana, but they’ve dropped their last game at home to Orlando 103-83. After the clash with Boston, the Bucks will welcome Minnesota Saturday night. The Celtics are coming off a 118-110 home victory over Detroit and will travel to Chicago Saturday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was so close to earning the All-Star MVP, as his team was leading for three quarters and the Greek Freak was arguably the best player on the floor. He’ll certainly try to maintain his form and will be the biggest threat for the Celtics’ defense. Giannis is averaging 33.5 points and 13.8 rebounds over his six games in February while making 64.0% of his field goals. However, he’ll need help from Khris Middleton who’s just enjoyed his first All-Star Game, while the Bucks will have to continue with their strong defensive performance.
Milwaukee’s defensive rating is the best in the league, as the Bucks are allowing just 103.8 points per 100 possessions. Their opponents are shooting only 43.0% from the field which is another best record in the league. However, the Bucks will face another tough defense, as the Celtics are allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions (5th in the league) on 44.3% shooting from the field (tied-2nd).
With a couple of excellent defensive teams, the offensive execution will be essential. The Bucks are scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions (4th in the league) on 48.0% shooting from the field (2nd) and 34.9% from beyond the arc (18th). On the other side, the Celtics are scoring 112.9 points per 100 possessions (9th in the league) on 46.5% shooting from the field (13th) and 37.2% from beyond the arc (5th). While the Bucks are making 25.4 assists per 100 possessions (8th in the league), the Celtics are slightly better with 26.4 dishes (5th).
The Celtics will have to slow down Antetokounmpo who’s averaging 31.5 points against them this season, but they have to rotate well and prevent open threes. On the other side of the ball, Kyrie Irving will be a key factor, as he’ll need to find the way to deal with the Bucks’ perimeter defense that is working very well this season.
The Bucks are favorites here for a reason, but the Celtics are so unpredictable this season and capable of making upsets whether they are listed as favorites or underdogs. Last week, the Celtics outlasted the Sixers on the road even though Kyrie Irving was sidelined, but Gordon Hayward stepped up with a stunning performance. I expect to see a tight battle that could be easily decided by a few possessions down the stretch, but I won’t take the Celtics to cover. My money will go on any team to win by 1 to 5 points around +230 odds.
When it comes to the totals, the line is a tricky one at 228.0 points, as the previous two H2H duels suggest. The first meeting had 230 points in the total, while the second had 227 points. I don’t feel comfortable with the totals, but I mostly rely on the teams’ defenses, so I will go with the under even though both sides can put some serious numbers on the scoreboard.
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