Celtics vs. Bucks: Milwaukee Will Roll Over Shorthanded Boston

Joe Dellera breaks down Tuesday's Celtics vs. Bucks matchup on TNT and shares his pick and prediction for the game.

Celtics vs. Bucks Odds

Celtics Odds +310
Bucks Odds -390
Over/Under 226.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Milwaukee Bucks host the Boston Celtics in a nationally televised showdown prior to the All-Star Break. In a matchup with critical playoff implications as these teams fight to be the top seed in the East, is there a betting edge? Find a pick and prediction for Celtics vs. Bucks below.

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Celtics Shorthanded in Milwaukee

The Celtics are at a severe disadvantage today. They will be without Jaylen Brown (face), Marcus Smart (ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (ACL). Additionally, they have listed Jayson Tatum (illness) as doubtful, Robert Williams (ankle) and Grant Williams (elbow) as questionable, while Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) rounds out the report as probable.

This leaves Boston with a projected starting lineup of Derrick White, Sam Hauser, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Robert Williams.  Regardless, it will be a tall task for this team to emerge victorious without Brown and Tatum.

On the season, the Celtics have the best Point Differential in the league (+6.9) and have the league’s best record at 41-16. However, this level of production will be impossible to duplicate as they need to go farther down their depth chart.

Surprisingly, Jayson Tatum has been a +10.4 for Boston when he’s on the floor, but Jaylen Brown is a -7.0, per Cleaning the Glass. Nonetheless, both players have had excellent advanced metrics, with Tatum and Brown being in the 97th and 89th percentiles of EPM.

When Tatum, Brown and Smart are off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. It’s a small sample size, which speaks to their health overall this season, but in 265 possessions, the Celtics have a -5.9 Point Differential and score just 107.9 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. Handling business against the Bucks will be difficult without their three best players.

Bucks Surging with Middleton Healthy

The Bucks have rounded into form lately as they have won 10 games in a row and now sit just one loss behind the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the East and the best record in the league. Tonight, they look to have their top players in and pull even closer to Boston.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) and Pat Connaughton (calf) are listed as probable tonight. Jae Crowder (conditioning) will not suit up for his Bucks debut yet either, but it’s notable that the Bucks have not listed Khris Middleton (injury management) on the injury report at all.

The Bucks have struggled to get healthy this season, but they’ve still had the league’s fifth-best Point Differential (+3.8), and their struggles have largely been on the offensive side of the ball while their defense has remained elite. They really needed Khris Middleton back to improve the offense. In Bucks lineups with Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday, the team is a +6.7 while scoring 122.2 points per 100 possessions.

While it’s a small sample size (225 possessions), you can see this combination is what the Bucks needed to succeed. If we dive in even deeper, their best starting lineup of those three with Grayson Allen and Brook Lopez holds a +21.2 Point Differential in 103 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. A healthy version of this Bucks team is truly dominant.

Celtics-Bucks Pick

This spread has ballooned from Bucks -4 to Bucks -9.5 with Tatum popping on the report as doubtful alongside other players having uncertain injury designations. While I don’t agree that Tatum is worth 5.5 points to the spread (I have him closer to 3.5), with Boston’s other injuries, the collective impact is greater than the sum of its parts.

Right now, Milwaukee is better than Boston, and the health certainly helps. I think it’s entirely possible that Boston lets its players rest as this is the first game of a back-to-back set as the team heads into the All-Star Break.

It seems uncomfortable to lay this many points against the Celtics, but if Tatum is formally ruled out, this Celtics team is a shell of itself against the red-hot Bucks who look to stretch their win streak to 11 games.