Celtics vs. Bucks Game 3 Preview: Trends Point to Value on Boston

Austin Wang previews Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks and shares a betting prediction.

Celtics vs. Bucks Odds

Celtics Odds +2
Bucks Odds -2
Over/Under 213
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

It has been a tale of two games between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks came into Boston and stole Game 1. Perhaps it was a letdown from their sweep of the Nets or some rust from an extended rest, but the Celtics didn’t show up ready to play and shot 33.3% from the field.

Celtics’ stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown struggled. Then, Marcus Smart got hit with an injury to his shoulder and a thigh contusion. The Bucks were able to run away in the second quarter with a barrage of 3-pointers and never looked back on their way to a comfortable 101-89 win.

The Celtics bounced back in a big way for Game 2 with a 109-86 thrashing of the defending champions. Boston hit 20 3-pointers and both Brown and Tatum had strong games while the Bucks went cold.

The series now shift to Milwaukee tied at one. We saw some extremes for both teams in the first two games, which resulted in one-sided blowouts.

The line for Game 3 opened up at Bucks -3 , which would indicate an excessive, seven-point move from the closing spread in Game 2. Since then, the line has been bet down to -2. Can we expect another blowout, or will we get to see a close game between these two Eastern Conference powerhouses?

Let’s dive into this pivotal Game 3.

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Will the Road Success Continue for the Celtics?

The Celtics were glad to see their young star Brown have a bounce-back game in Game 2. After an awful performance in Game 1, he rebounded with 30 points in Game 2, going 11-for-18 from the field and knocking down six 3-pointers.

The Celtics got much better production off the bench — Grant Williams had a breakout game with 21 points and six 3-pointers. In addition, they had a smarter game plan to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo and used Grant Williams and Al Horford to guard him one-on-one, preventing the open 3-pointers they gave up in Game 1.

Can the Celtics take care of business on the road? They had the highest Net Rating (7.7) on the road, per NBA Advanced Stats. They are 27-16 ATS (62.8%) this year and have gone on a 10-1 ATS run dating back to March 9 per the SDQL. The Celtics thrive in hostile territory. In fact, the home/away splits show Tatum and Brown perform better offensively on the road.


  • Tatum: 26.4 PPG | 44.4% FG Pct | 30.9% 3-point Pct
  • Brown: 22.9 PPG, 46.4% FG Pct | 35.5% 3-point Pct


  • Tatum: 27.5 PPG | 46.1% FG Pct | 39.5% 3-point Pct
  • Brown: 24.4 PPG, 48.5% FG Pct | 36.1% 3-point Pct

Schedule makers gave these teams a three-day break in between Game 2 and 3. I think this benefits Boston as this will be just its third game in 12 nights.

The extra rest gives Smart more time to get healthy and lets Brown and Tatum recover from some of the nagging injuries they’ve been dealing with. The Celtics have a slight rest advantage in comparison to the Bucks, since they swept Brooklyn.

Bucks Need to Defend Home Court

The Bucks came out with a dominating performance in Game 1 and held the Celtics to only 89 points. The Celtics were adamant in forcing someone other than Antetokounmpo to beat them. Boston threw double-teams at the two-time MVP and he was able to tally up 12 assists by kicking it out to his teammates for the open 3-pointers.

Game 2 was the complete opposite as the Bucks went cold from behind the arc and shot 3-for-18. Milwaukee was down by 25 points at the half, but they won the second half 46-44 and Antetokounmpo looked a lot better in the second half and scored 18 points in the third quarter alone.

The Bucks haven’t been a dominant presence at home the way they were in previous seasons. They are only 18-26 (40.9%) ATS this season at home and their Net Rating (3.2) was eighth overall in the regular season.

Khris Middleton is still out with a left knee injury and his presence was sorely missed in Game 2. Dating back to last season, the Bucks are 12-13 straight up and 11-14 against the spread in games without Middleton, per the SDQL at Gimme The Dog. They were able to win and cover the three games against the Bulls in the first round without Middleton, but the Celtics pose a tougher task.

Celtics-Bucks Pick

I think the Celtics have an advantage here. Boston made some excellent adjustments to its defensive approach in Game 2.

I anticipate Smart will be back in the lineup for the Celtics, while the Bucks will continue to miss Middleton. Based on what I see from the Celtics’ road splits and the Bucks’ poor home ATS record, I don’t think a six-point line move from Game 2 to Game 3 was warranted.

I make this game a pick’em and see value on backing the Celtics at +2.

Pick: Celtics +2