Last Updated: 2019-05-05
The No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks bounced back from a tough loss in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series, beating the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics in the next two matchups including a 123-116 victory in Game 3 on Friday. The Bucks have a chance to put the Celtics in dire straits with an eventual victory in Game 4 at TD Garden Monday night. On the other side, Boston will be highly motivated to tie the series in front of the home audience, so we expect to see a thrilling battle.
The Bucks are without Pau Gasol (ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (heel). Brogdon returned to practice, but he’s not ready for game action and could be back on the floor in Game 5 in Milwaukee. The Celtics will probably miss Marcus Smart (oblique) who practiced on Sunday. If he’s cleared to play, Smart will get some limited minutes, but his defensive awareness is essential for this Boston team.
The Celtics opened as 1.5-point favorites with the total at 221.0 points and the Bucks at +100 money line odds. With the Celtics at -115 money line odds, you don’t need to bother with a spread. Games like this one could be easily decided by a single point.
What’s at Stake?
There’s a lot on the table for both Boston and Milwaukee. Only 11 teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the best-of-seven series. The Celtics cannot afford another loss at TD Garden before the series heads to Milwaukee for Game 5.
The Celtics are at a tight spot, but they play in front of the home fans and have a few players who have been many times in tough situations in the postseason. On the other side, the Bucks’ confidence is sky high after two straight wins, so the visitors will come ready to pull off another upset.
After a couple of blowouts in the first two games of the series, we saw a tight Game 3 or at least the first 32 minutes of it. The Celtics had an 82-81 lead with 3:44 left on the clock in the 3rd quarter when the Bucks initiated a 12-0 run that decided the winner. The Bucks had a 15-point lead mid through the fourth quarter, and there was no way back for the Celtics who allowed 68 second-half points to their rivals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 32 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, and a couple of steals. The Greek Freak shot 8-of-13 from the field and 16-of-22 from the free-throw line, and the Celtics had some complaints on officials. Khris Middleton had 20 points, nailing three triples out of six attempts, while the Bucks had huge support from George Hill and Pat Connaughton off the bench. Hill accounted for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field, while Connaughton added 14 points including four 3-pointers.
On the other side, Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 29 points and six assists, but he made just eight of his 22 field-goal attempts. The Celtics’ starting lineup did a good job with all five guys scoring 16 or more points, while the second unit had an awful night with only 16 points. Terry Rozier was scoreless in 14 minutes on the floor. Gordon Hayward had ten points on 2-of-8 shooting along with seven rebounds and five assists.
The Celtics made 43.2% of their field goals, while the Bucks shot 50.6% from the field which was the main difference between two teams along with points in the paint, as the Bucks scored 28 points in the paint more than the Celtics (52-24). Milwaukee nailed 20 treys in Game 2 which obviously forced the Celtics to respect their shot a lot in Game 3, and that was a huge mistake. Antetokounmpo scored all his points in the paint or from the charity stripe while taking just one shot from beyond the arc.
Boston will have to defend the low post much better and take the risk with the Bucks’ jump shot. On the other side of the ball, Kyrie Irving needs to prove his worth, while the Celtics have to make open shots in general if they want to even the series.
The Celtics are in a must-win situation, and I think they will cope with pressure. Boston is 12-2 straight up in its last 14 playoff games at home and 16-2 straight up in its previous 18 outings in the postseason when listed as a favorite, so I’m backing the Celtics to win tonight. The Celtics head coach Brad Stevens should find the way to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, while I expect to see Kyrie Irving at his best.
When it comes to the totals, I was backing the under throughout the series, but the previous two games were finished in the over. The Celtics’ defense was terrible over the last two contests, and I think they will do a better job tonight, so I will stick with the under. A tough defensive job without fouling Antetokounmpo is a must for the Celtics in Game 4.
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