Bucks vs. Celtics Preview: Well-Rested Boston Has Edge

Action Network NBA betting analyst Austin Wang explains why he likes the Celtics as a short home underdog on Friday night against the Bucks.

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Bucks vs. Celtics Odds

Bucks Odds -2
Celtics Odds +2
Over/Under 213.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

It is still early in the season, but it is strange to see Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics as sub-.500 teams. The defending champions have been hit hard with the championship hangover and a myriad of injuries to their key players.

The Celtics are dealing with their own injury and COVID issues while managing a lot of roster turnover and adapting to new head coach, Ime Udoka. They have started 5-6 and may be in for another disappointing season.

Both teams face off for their first matchup of the season in Boston. The Bucks are 5-2 against the spread on the road while the Celtics are 1-3 ATS at home. Will these splits continue to favor the away team? Let’s break down the matchup below.

Bucks Feeling a Championship Hangover

The Bucks have started this season off slow at 6-6. It is no surprise they are feeling the championship hangover from a shortened offseason. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton both played in the Olympics immediately after winning the NBA title. Those two and Brook Lopez have all missed multiple games this season. Besides the season opener against the Nets, they have yet to play a game with their full rotation.

Middleton and Lopez will remain out of the lineup for Friday’s game. Grayson Allen has filled in nicely in Middleton’s absence. With all the injuries, he has seized this opportunity and has stepped up as the second-best player for this Bucks team. He provides scoring versatility and energy on defense. He will need to continue this level of play for the Bucks to win this game.

The Bucks are nearing the end of a brutal road trip and will be playing their fourth game in six nights. They just finished a pair of back-to-back games where they notched some impressive wins against the 76ers and the Knicks. However, now that they are on the tail end of this road trip, fatigue may really start to set in, especially with such a thin roster at the moment.

giannis antetokounmpo

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks were lights out against the Knicks. They shot 26 of 50 from behind the arc, led by Pat Connaughton with seven 3s and Allen with five. The Bucks will continue to hoist up those threes as they rank fourth in 3-point attempt rate.

They may be due for some 3-point regression this game, especially with tired legs from a long road trip. In addition, the Celtics defend the 3-point line well, ranking eighth in the opponent’s 3-point percentage allowed (32.6%).

Well-Rested Celtics Can Disrupt Giannis

The Celtics have gotten off to a shaky start, going 5-6 despite having two talented young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown will not suit up on Friday night as he will be sitting out his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury.

Dennis Schroder has been the main beneficiary of minutes with Brown out. He has scored 20 points in his previous two games and is gaining some confidence. His performance will be critical for the Celtics to pull the upset.

Marcus Smart signed a 4-year, $77 million extension during the offseason, which doesn’t really align with his talent level, in my opinion. Although he is a great vocal leader and tenacious defender, his shooting numbers are at an all-time low and made some recent comments accusing Brown and Tatum of being ball hogs. This doesn’t bode well long-term for their team chemistry when your de facto leader isn’t jiving with your best players.

However, his comments may have lit a fire under their team. Since the fourth quarter meltdown against the Bulls where they were outscored 39-11, the Celtics have won three of their last four.

35-year old Al Horford must feel comfortable in Boston because he’s having a bit of a resurgence. He is leading the team in Defensive Win Shares, per Basketball Reference. Between him and the energetic Robert Williams, they have the tools to disrupt Giannis Antetokounmpo on the defensive end. The Celtics have above-average perimeter defenders in Smart and Josh Richardson who can help protect against the 3-point happy Bucks.

Bucks-Celtics Pick

Both teams have been playing better as of late, but I must side with the more well-rested team at home. Factoring in the long road trip and injuries for the Bucks, I make this game a pick em. I see them having a let-down spot after two big wins in back-to-back nights. Meanwhile, the Celtics are playing in their second game this week and should be rejuvenated.

The Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last six matchups against the Bucks, dating back to October 2019. I think the Celtics continue this run. Give me the underdog on ESPN Friday night.

.Pick: Celtics +2 (up to PK)