Bucks vs Celtics odds
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For the second consecutive postseason, a second-round series featuring Milwaukee Bucks Seems like a potential final match.
Last year it was netts. This year, is Boston Celtics.
Last year’s series was marred by injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving, but they lived up to the hype anyway, with Milwaukee winning Game 7 when Kevin Durant’s boot was too big.
This year, Chris Middleton (knee) will miss the entire tour, and Milwaukee will once again be on the road for a potential Match 7 after landing late to avoid the net. Boston didn’t walk away from the game and swept Brooklyn in the first round.
Giannis Anticonmo. Jason Tatum. Jrue holiday. Jaylen Brown.
Defending against the 17-time NBA champion.
This series has all the makings. Let’s dig.
Milwaukee faces an uphill battle without Middleton
This is usually where we dive into season-round metrics to get a profile for these dollars, but most of these metrics aren’t particularly relevant. That’s because they mostly left Brooke Lopez, who missed most of the season injured, and Middleton included.
Middleton’s loss is enormous on both sides. The Bucks are seriously short on wing depth, which is really their only two-way wing. Milwaukee can use Grayson Allen’s shot to get through the attack, but it’s short on defense. Pat Connaughton is a strong defender, but he shoots 3s when attacking. Wesley Matthews is reliable but old.
The Bucks went big against Chicago without Middleton, as Bobby Portes started alongside Antetokounmpo and Lopez, and the results were impressive. Portis was a monster with 15.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game in 30 minutes per game and hit seven 3s in his three starts. It’s +650 in FanDuel to lead this series in recoil.
Milwaukee had an unreasonable defensive rating of 94.4 in the first round, nearly 10 points per 100 better than any other team. The large squad dominated the glass, ending 82% of the opponent’s possessions after one shot. Last year, Milwaukee’s defense was the NBA’s best post-season defense, but it hasn’t been as strong this season. Were the Bucks keeping it in the playoffs, or was Chicago just bad? Maybe a little bit of both
Milwaukee ranked only 14th in the defensive rankings in the regular season, but the Bucks placed third in attack. The defense has to bear the burden here, though, without Middleton.
As far as Antetokounmpo, Middleton is best for creating a bucket late in games. Jrue Holiday is the third star, but his attack was unreliable last season and didn’t do well against Chicago with a 94 attack rating on 48% True Shooting.
Allen started all 13 regular season games that Middleton missed and averaged 17.2 points at a rate of 4.0 3 seconds per game. His numbers with Middleton dropped to 9.6 and 2.0. Despite coming off the bench against the Bulls, Allen averaged 20.7 points in the three games without Middleton, scoring 70% of his triple-doubles while notching 4.7 points per game.
Keep playing Allen’s exaggerated matches until proven otherwise, especially if the big squad is struggling and he’s playing more.
However, it is concerning to what extent the Bucks’ offense depends on hitting the Allen 3s. Antetokounmpo is the best player in the series, but he can’t do much and will be asked to take a heavy load on the defence. The Bucks need Allen, Portis, Connaughton and others to strike for any chance.
Milwaukee has a +12.5 net rating with the Big Three on the field per pivotal analysis, but that is irrelevant to Middleton’s exit. The Bucks were almost fine with only Giannis and Holiday, but that still leaves something like eight minutes of Antetokounmpo without Jrue and – most worryingly – eight to 10 minutes of vacation without Giannis. Those minutes will be key
We know the Milwaukee file. The Bucks defense gives up 3 most throws in the league by design. If the Boston shooters are injured, Milwaukee is in trouble. The Bucks also rank in the top five in 3s taken and made.
The contrast of the shots will tell a lot of the story. The Bucks must win the rebound battle and at the goal line, so a tight whistle can help against this D.
Antetokounmpo must be more than just the best player in the series. He should be the best player by a large margin. Super Giannis, the best player in the finals, should be from both ends. We know it could be, but the task is huge against an opponent that’s good.
The red lane Celtics are rightfully preferred against the champions
Boston has posted 30-6 since Jan. 29, and three of those six losses are one bucket.
Those games on the Nets were closer than a pass would suggest, but Boston’s physical defense gave Kevin Durant a miserable streak, and Jason Tatum was the series’ best player with 29.5 points and 7.3 assists, as well as an impressive defense. If he’s close to the best player in the series, that’s impressive.
Boston held the top spot in both the offensive and defensive rankings from January 29 through the end of the season. Defense was more second than the No. 2 league average, and Boston had a +14.8 net rating. The Celtics earn more than a full point on their opponent every seven possessions — and they’ve done so over the course of three months, and the count is up.
He led Boston’s attacking league in real shooting and effective field goal percentage during that time. But before January 29th, the Celtics were ranked 23rd in those stats and 22nd in the attack rankings.
How much of a Boston attack was it easy to stop buckets of defensive pauses? Some, sure, but that increase also came with the addition of Derek White as a supplement builder and, most importantly, another big step forward from Tatum and Brown.
The other big change came defensively, with Robert Williams coming off the paint and Al Horford defending the opponent’s center instead. Horford is much better at switching and defending on the perimeter. This frees Williams to wreak havoc as an assistant defender.
Williams missed the final phase of the season, and Boston’s defense slipped to seventh in the EFG and defensive rankings without him. He’s back but he wasn’t great in the 30 minutes of the first turn. Without Williams, the Celtics have a very good defense. With him, they were historically elite.
Boston defense ranked first in the NBA in both 2 and 3 percentage points allowed. Opponents simply don’t get good shots. This can be a huge problem for a Milwaukee team that lacks creativity at times, especially with Middleton sidelined.
Boston will need to prove that the offensive jump late in the season was not a coincidence of hot shooting and an unsustainable great defense. Will Marcus Smart hit all open jump rings? Can Grant Williams and Peyton-Pritchard continue to pay more than 40% off the bench? Will Horford be ready to shoot?
If they fall, it will be hard to squeeze the dollars to keep up.
Pax Celtics Bake
These teams have played four times this season, but two games lost their stars and the others came in December. The Bucks won at Christmas with a massive Antetokounmpo game and lost 12 days ago when he wasn’t good and Tatum scored 42. Both games were played without Lopez and before the Celtics rush, so we can’t collect much.
Antetokounmpo must be the best player in this series, ahead of Tatum. Vacation may need to outpace Brown, too. If Portis or Lopez rise as the series’ fifth-best player, Milwaukee can tilt the matches in their favour. Boston’s seat and depth is a huge advantage, especially in those minutes without Giannis.
Like it or not, a lot of this series will come down to being shot by role-playing players. If Allen, Connaughton and Portis hit, the Bucks offense could be snagged. If Smart and Celtics fire up well, Milwaukee has a big problem.
The most trustworthy unit on the court is Boston’s defense, and Milwaukee’s least offensive without Middleton. It’s hard to tell if Boston’s attack and Milwaukee defense can stay as hot as they were, but the biggest question in the series is whether the Bucks can score enough.
Both attacks will have a stark adjustment in the face of such strong defenses after a very easy first round. It might be a shock to both teams early on, so I expect that slow scoring will start. Bettors anticipate that, too, betting that the total dropped from 219 to 217 as of Saturday afternoon.
The number that hasn’t moved as much is that the Bucks total is 106.5, and that’s the angle I play at. Middleton’s understated Milwaukee attack against this superb defense is the biggest mismatch in the series and it might take a while for the Bucks to figure it out. Even better, the Bucks’ totals are 9-1 down in game 1s under Mike Budenholzer, per Gimme the Dog.
I’m counting on Boston in Game 1 and in the series, but five points is a huge cover in a game that can be low-scoring. I wouldn’t mind betting the Celtics to win Game 1 and take the series at -115. That’s an implied value of 53.5% and much better than the -200 series price for Boston, especially since you’d feel bad about them winning the series with their first game losing at home.
If you agree that the Celtics are a step ahead of the Milwaukee, there is some value in Boston futures, whether to win the East or the title odds.
For the series, I’m not going to mess with the exact game prediction. Giannis is good enough to win any game on his own, and Boston is good enough to sweep another strong opponent if everything is clicked.
But the Celtics are clearly the better team, especially without Middleton. I’ll take Boston at -1.5 on the +130 series streak at BetMGM. I don’t see enough Bucks offenses to make three wins, let alone four.
For Game 1, I might make some 3 point Allen and Grant Williams props once it pops up, but my main play is the Bucks under 106.5. The Milwaukee crime must prove it has answers before I do justice.
Picking: Total Team Bucks Under 106.5 | Celtics line -1.5 series