The Boston Celtics (52-24, 40-35-1 ATS) are in Milwaukee to battle the Bucks (55-21, 40-30-6 ATS) in a showdown of the top two teams in the East. The Celtics’ one seed hopes are practically dead following a head-scratching loss to the undermanned Washington Wizards on Monday night, but they have a chance tonight to go 2-1 against Milwaukee on the season. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Bucks are 2.5-point favorites.
Point Spread: Milwaukee Bucks -2.5
O/U: 236.5 points
ML: Bucks -142, Celtics +120
Robert Williams III (knee), Grant Williams (non-COVID illness), and Payton Pritchard (heel) are all questionable to play. The only Celtic ruled out for tonight is Danilo Gallinari (ACL), who has been recovering from surgery since the start of the season.
Khris Middleton (knee) sat out last night’s game against Indiana, but it appeared to be due to load management rather than an actual injury. He should be ready to go for tonight. The availability of Jae Crowder (calf) and Meyers Leonard (calf) will be a game-time decision.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Bucks Projected Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Grayson Allen
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
Boston Celtics Overview
Monday was ugly, there’s no getting around it. After three straight games of asserting their dominance over inferior defensive opponents, Boston shot 25% from three and got terribly outworked in the paint by Washington. Getting back on track defensively will be the biggest key in taking down Milwaukee tonight. On Valentine’s Day, when the C’s nearly beat the Bucks in OT down Tatum, Brown, Smart, and Horford, they forced 18 turnovers — the eighth most Milwaukee has surrendered in a game this season. Along with big scoring nights from Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon, that defense was a big reason the were anywhere close to hanging with the Bucks. The impact of guys like White and Marcus Smart on defense could prove massive in what should be a very close game.
Something the team didn’t do as well in that game was shoot threes. The C’s certainly have had worse days — as everyone is well aware of — but they shot 17/50 for a 34% clip, a little below their season average of 37.6%. Despite shooting inconsistencies following the All-Star break, this could have the Celtics feeling good about their chances tonight. Putting aside Monday’s performance, the team has averaged 42% from deep in the three games since Robert Williams III’s return from injury. For the Celtics to take down Milwaukee, they don’t need to have an amazing shooting night, they just need to refocus and hit at a slightly higher rate. This starts by consistently moving the ball and not trying to play hero ball if shots aren’t falling. If the bad three point shooting spirals out of control, it will be hard to get anything else going against this Bucks defense.
Milwaukee Bucks Overview
It’s no secret why Milwaukee has once again won so many games: Giannis is Giannis, and the team’s defense is outstanding. Central to the third-ranked defense in the league is Brook Lopez, the veteran center who’s turned himself into a 3-and-D monster in his time with the Bucks. Lopez’s ability to control the paint is a major reason why Milwaukee holds opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the league (45.1%). The Celtics consistently have success scoring around the rim, even on nights where they try too hard to push through three point struggles. Lopez’s presence on defense will be a determining factor dictating the type of night Boston will have on offense.
When the two best teams in the league get together, it’s anyone’s for the taking. The Celtics have shown all season they can match up very well against the Bucks, but with Milwaukee going 14-4 since their last game against Boston, I feel more comfortable picking the team that’s proven to be the most consistent down the stretch. This one should come down to the wire, but I think the Bucks will prevail.