Celtics vs. Bucks Preview: How to Bet Based on Giannis Antetokounmpo's Status

Action Network NBA betting contributor Kenny Ducey previews Saturday's Christmas Day matchup between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

Celtics vs. Bucks Odds

Celtics Odds +7.5
Bucks Odds -7.5
Over/Under 221
Time 2 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Our second Christmas Day game takes place to Milwaukee where the defending champion Bucks host the Boston Celtics. The C’s have picked things up and gotten a bit healthier of late, while Milwaukee is still dealing with a few key absences.

Is it worth buying the Bucks at a discount, or are the Celtics for real? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

>> Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.

Celtics Improving Despite Health Issues

Injury news is ever-changing in the COVID era, but here’s what we know right now.

The Celtics have pretty much their entire frontcourt in health and safety protocols now that Enes Freedom is out. That means Boston has just Robert Williams at center, and Jayson Tatum will have to slide over to play the four. Al Horford and Juan Hernangomez are questionable due to health and safety protocols but it’s possible Norvel Pelle, who just signed with the team could see the floor considering the lack of depth.

There’s still time for some guys to clear protocols in time for Christmas, but for now I think we can safely assume Boston is going to be weak up front. With that being said, the Celtics have one of the worst restricted area defenses in the NBA and have been victimized down low all year.

The good news for Boston is they have Jaylen Brown healthy at long last. He rejoined the team this week, and with him came a renewed emphasis on defense. With Brown on the floor this season, the Celtics have a 99.8 Defensive Rating according to With him off the floor, Boston’s allowing 110.2 per 100 possessions.

When you consider that split, and the fact that Brown is fresh off a 34-point game, it’s easy to see his impact.

Which Version of the Bucks Will Show Up?

The Bucks admittedly don’t have as many names out under the league’s healthy and safety protocols, but the names are far bigger. Giannis Antetokounmpo — at least as of now — is out due to COVID-19, along with Donte DiVincenzo, who was just set to debut after a long absence due to an ankle injury. Bobby Portis is also currently out, which is tough news because Brook Lopez is currently recovering from back surgery.

I say “as of now” because Antetokounmpo is reportedly set to clear protocols ahead of Christmas Day, but it’s unclear if he’ll play.

Milwaukee is currently featuring DeMarcus Cousins and Jordan Nwora up front which worked quite well against the Dallas Mavericks. The pair totaled 27 points and 16 boards in the win and while they may be lacking a bit on defense, they’ve still got an edge over Boston’s frontcourt.

In the five games that Antetokounmpo has missed, Milwaukee has ranked sixth on the defensive side of the ball while lagging behind in 20th in offense. They’ve also unsurprisingly struggled on the glass in those games, ranking 24th in rebounding rate, while Boston is 11th in that span.

There’s a lot that can change before tip, but it’s worth noting the Celtics were initially seven-point favorites.

Celtics-Bucks Pick

Judging strictly by what we know at this moment, I’d have to say the Celtics are playing better basketball and better-equipped to win this game. Brown has breathed life into this squad, and the absences up front shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering Boston has never defended the rim well. Even so, Williams has been excellent while the Celtics have been in a bind and will probably get heavy run.

I think the Celtics can win this game outright without Antetokounmpo to save Milwaukee, and I was on them at +3 before the news that he cleared protocols came down.

I’m going to wait on the news that Antetokounmpo is officially available, but at +7 we’re getting a great price on the Celtics whether or not he plays.

Pick: Celtics +7.5 (-110)