Celtics vs. Bucks: How to Bet the Battle of East Elites

Action Network analyst Joe Dellera previews how to bet Celtics vs. Bucks, including updated odds, picks & predictions for Thursday's game.

Celtics vs. Bucks Odds

Celtics Odds +2
Bucks Odds -2
Over/Under 236.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The East’s two best teams face off on Thursday night in a game with the overall No. 1 seed at stake. The Bucks hold a three game lead in the loss column to the Celtics; however, this game also would swing the season head-to-head tiebreaker, effectively making this game worth two.

A Bucks win would set them essentially five games ahead of the Celtics with each time having just five games left. A Celtics win? It would narrow the gap to a two game lead in the loss column for the Bucks but if Boston were able to tie Milwaukee they would become the top seed in the East due to the tiebreakers.

This is a high-leverage spot for both sides, so let’s break down Celtics vs Bucks.

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Boston Celtics

The Celtics have listed a few players as questionable on their injury report, namely, Robert Williams (injury management), Grant Williams (illness), and Payton Pritchard (heel). We’ll see what Boston decides to do here with these players or if they’ll try and play without them today.

One player who has thrived in these matchups against Milwaukee has been Marcus Smart. Smart is a utility knife of sorts, he can defend, score, and facilitate as needed. In these games against the Bucks, his facilitating has shined through.

Over the past two seasons (including a playoff series), Smart has exceeded his assists line of 4.5 in nine of 11 matches against the Bucks with 6 or more in each of those. I’ll split my wager between 4.5 assists at (-155 DraftKings) and over 5.5 (+108 BetRivers) to take advantage of his facilitating.

The Celtics have been excellent from the start of the season and have the league’s second-best Adjusted Net Rating of +6.0. They have also benefitted from relatively good health this season outside of the ongoing saga of Robert Williams. Their intended starting lineup of Smart, White, Brown, Tatum, and Horford has excelled with a +12.1 point differential this season, per Cleaning the Glass.

One of the surprising notes about this season has been how the Jay’s have performed together. When both are on the floor, the team is +4.6 points per 100 across 3261 possessions. This is still a strong performance; however, it’s not nearly as dominant as other pairings in the league and pales in comparison to their metrics last season where they were +14.8 points per 100 as long as that duo was on the floor.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have dealt with a laundry list of injuries this season, but have only listed Meyers Leonard (calf) on their report for today’s game, which is the second game of a back-to-back set. It is notable that Khris Middleton was held out of yesterday’s game against the Pacers with the idea he would be able to play in this contest. This makes me think the Bucks will send their full squad out for this game.

Milwaukee has the fifth-best Adjusted Net Rating on the season at +3.9; however, they have not been whole for the majority of the season. Over the last month, they have been even better with an 11-4 record, and the offense is cruising while scoring 122.6 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.

Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo simply dominated yesterday with a 50 burger for Jrue and a triple-double for Giannis, and they will look to build on that performance today. Compare this duo to the Jay’s and Jrue and Giannis have been much better as a combo this season.

On the season, when Jrue and Giannis both are on the floor, the Bucks have a +13.6 point differential and score 121.7 points per 100 while allowing just 108.2. And while it’s a limited sample size (259 possessions), if you mix Middleton and Brook Lopez in, those lineups are a whopping +22.3 and score 138.6 points per 100 possessions. They are simply dominant.

Celtics-Bucks Pick

Tonight’s game is extremely high-leverage, but it’s arguably more important for the Bucks to seal this game and then have their last five games of the season to rest as they see fit.

I expect this game to have a playoff intensity, and when fully healthy, I have Milwaukee as the better team. I’ll lay the points at home, a spot the Bucks are 21-14-2 ATS.

Pick: Bucks -2