While there are only two NBA games on the docket on Thursday, we get one of the best matchups of the entire season between the No. 1 seed Bucks and No. 2 seed Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks are playing some of their best basketball of the season and come into this game on the second leg of a back-to-back after a historic combo performance from Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last night, they became the first team in NBA history to have a 50-point scorer (Holiday) alongside a 35-point triple-double (Antetokounmpo) in the same game. It’s hard to come into a game in better form, especially when they’re also expecting Khris Middleton back.
The Celtics have experienced their ups and downs over the last number of weeks amid some internal turbulence surrounding Jaylen Brown, but this should still be a fight to the death. Even so, I trust the Bucks to maintain their form and take care of business at home.
CELTICS VS. BUCKS BETTING ODDS
Odds and lines accurate at the time of publication
CELTICS VS. BUCKS BEST BETS
Bucks -2.5 (-110, DraftKings)
As I alluded to, I fully expect the Bucks to take care of business tonight. On the season overall, only the 76ers have performed better against the spread (ATS) than the Bucks (41-29-6, 58.6% cover%). On top of that, no team in the entire NBA has a better record ATS on the second leg of a back-to-back than the Milwaukee Bucks (9-1-1, 90% cover%).
Getting Middleton back is also a massive addition for the Bucks. With Middleton on the floor this season, the Bucks have seen their offensive rating jump from 115.3 to 118.8, which, if extrapolated across the entire season, would rank first in the entire NBA.
The Celtics are no slouch of an opponent, though, even as an away team. They’ve been able to tread water away from TD Gardens, holding a 20-19-0 (51.3% cover%) record ATS, but their recent play has revealed some red flags that have me fading them on the road.
They’ve tended to play with their food a bit as of late, as their three losses have come against the Wizards (19-point loss), Jazz (one-point loss), and Rockets (two-point loss), three opponents they should’ve put away early. The problem for the Celtics, here, is the fact that if they get caught toying around even in the slightest on Thursday, the Bucks are a team that will exploit it.
On top of this, Jayson Tatum has really struggled from deep. Over his last five games, he’s shot only 32.3% from deep, and only 29.8% over his last 10 games. The Bucks used to be a three-point funnel, but have now allowed the seventh-fewest threes per game (11.9) this season. If Tatum struggles from an efficiency standpoint in a game where he may see fewer looks than normal, this could cause problems for the Celtics, especially coupled with the Bucks’ elite interior defense.
The Bucks can slash their magic number for the number-one overall seed to “1” with a win tonight, giving them a massive amount of motivation to win this game handily given how the playoff bracket is shaking out and a motivated Bucks team is one worth betting on.
Risk: 1.1 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit.
Download the Betsperts App to get even more expert NBA picks, track your bets, and get the latest game stats & information on each matchup.