Indicative of recent history between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, their Eastern Conference semifinals series is even after two games. The teams are set for a 3:30 p.m. ET tip-off on Saturday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Celtics stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum bounced back in Game 2, scoring 59 points on 21-of-38 shooting combined in Boston’s 108-96 victory. Milwaukee was just 3 for 18 (16.7%) on 3-pointers.
Former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double in Game 1 with 28 points on 11-of-27 shooting. Jrue Holiday added 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting, yet the Bucks were strong on the defensive end for a 101-89 victory.
Now the series heads to the Deer District, and a state passionate about basketball will be cheering on Milwaukee in hopes of another championship run.
The line opened at Milwaukee -3 with an over/under of 213. Those have since fallen to Bucks -1.5 with an over/under of 212.5 as of this writing.
Boston’s defense is key
The Celtics made a clear effort to go with bigger lineups in Game 2, and it worked. Grant Williams scored 21 points off the bench, going six for nine on three-pointers, but he brought a defensive versatility to Boston’s frontcourt and wings that allow them to switch.
Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart is expected to return, listed as probable with his quadriceps injury. Derrick White started in his place, and while he didn’t score, he was plus-22. But Smart had the best season of his career when becoming the full-time point guard under Ime Udoka.
Boston has been the best defensive team in the league this season. They held opponents to 104.5 points per game, 43.4% from the field, and 33.9% from 3-point range — all the best marks in the league.
Milwaukee’s marginal improvements needed
The blueprint for the Bucks to beat one of the hottest teams in basketball is pretty clear. They need to win the turnover and rebounding margins and hit three-pointers at the rate they did this season. Those things all translated to a Game 1 win.
For the season, Milwaukee shot 36.6% from the field, which was the fifth-best rate in the league. Their 115.5 points per game was the third-best in the league.
Getting live-ball turnovers and defensive rebounds will mean extra possessions where they can get out in transition. That’s where they thrive with a quick outlet pass or Antetokounmpo taking advantage of his long strides to get down the court.
Point guard George Hill is probably with an abdominal issue that has kept him out since April 8. Khris Middleton remains out, likely, with an estimated return of Mid May.
Boston/Milwaukee Betting Prediction
Contrasting styles will be interesting to follow. The Bucks want a faster pace than the Celtics.
Making shots and limiting turnovers is the key for Boston. They have a little more depth now with Smart’s return, moving White back to the bench, and Payton Pritchard’s minutes being limited.
So far, 71% of the bets are on the Bucks against the spread, and 60% are on the over. The over has hit in each of the last six meetings in Milwaukee and is 8-3 over the last 11. Boston has beat the spread in four straight games in Milwaukee, and the Celtics are 8-1 over the last nine against the Bucks.
In a pivotal Game 3, we’ll take the Celtics +1.5 and to win outright.
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