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The Milwaukee Bucks (25-12) will host the Boston Celtics (29-8) in a showdown between the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks still have questions to answer, particularly on the defensive side of the court, but have the fourth-best winning percentage in the league and one of the most unstoppable duos in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.
The Celtics, who have the league’s best record, are undefeated at home but only 11-8 on the road. They also went to overtime with the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night before boarding their plane to fly to Milwaukee.
Here, we will break down the betting odds and share our favorite picks for the Celtics vs. Bucks matchup on Thursday.
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The Bucks are favored by 5.5 points on their home floor on Thursday. The Celtics won the only previous meeting between the two back in Boston, 119-116.
|Over 241 (-110)
|Under 241 (-110)
The Bucks enter Thursday’s clash in their worst run of the season. They lost four of their last five games, including back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.
Giannis cannot be blamed for his team’s shortcomings during that stretch as he averaged 34.6 points, 14 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. Lillard, on the other hand, averaged just 19.8 points and seven assists on 34.8% field goal and 16.1% three-point shooting.
Milwaukee has the third-best offensive rating in the league. They’ve achieved that by having a great blend of individual playmaking, spot-shooting, rim pressure, and ball movement.
The Bucks are sixth in three-point percentage (37.9%), seventh in turnover percentage, and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio. They also average the sixth-most points per possession in the halfcourt, though they play at the fourth-fastest pace in the league.
Offense hasn’t been the problem for Milwaukee—the other aspects of the game have been. The team is only 18th in rebound rate and 22nd in defensive rating and doesn’t do a great job being disruptive (11th in blocks, 25th in steals) or earning easy points in transition (21st in fastbreak points).
Giannis has been dominant night in and night out. Lillard, on the other hand, averaged 27.2 points in wins but only 19.6 in losses. At the same time, he averaged 26.1 at home to 23.9 on the road.
Because their defense still leaves a lot to be desired, the key for Milwaukee has to be offense. They’re 19-3 when they score 120+ points, with two of those losses coming to an Indiana Pacers squad they’re yet to beat.
The Celtics are the most dominant on-paper team in the league. Their +10.4 net rating is the best in the league, and they’re second in both offensive and defensive rating and third in rebound rate.
Boston’s biggest asset is its versatility. Four members of their starting five can play any role on the court, while Kristaps Porzingis’ range is both a nightmare to cover and a major deterrent for opposing shooters.
The C’s also dominate the perimeter. Their recent hot streak shooting the ball helped them climb to ninth in three-point percentage (37.7%), and they take and make the most triples per game (42.9 attempts, 16.2 makes).
As much as made of the Celtics’ decline in play on the road compared to inside their home building, they have the second-best road rating of any team (+6.3). That’s even ahead of the Bucks’ home rating (+4.7).
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both enter the matchup scorching hot. Tatum dropped 45 points in Wednesday’s win and scored 30+ in every game this month, while Brown put up 35 last night and 31+ in three straight games.
Boston has also done as good of a job as anyone at defending Giannis. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Greek Freak averaged 26.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists and failed to crack 30 points in seven of the last nine matchups.
The major concern will be Boston’s energy level on the second night of a back-to-back and after enduring a grueling grudge match against the T’Wolves. However, they’re 5-1 in back-to-backs this season and score an average of 124.2 points while giving up an average of 110.2.
The Celtics won six of their last nine matchups against the Bucks. Only one of those games featured Lillard, but he’s about to get arguably the toughest defensive matchup in the league in Jrue Holiday, and he’s extremely cold from the field.
Milwaukee’s biggest asset is going to have to be its three-point defense. While Boston tends to dominate teams with their relentless shot-taking and making from long range, the Bucks allow the third-lowest percentage of make to opponents (33.7%).
While it might seem easy to take a great team like Milwaukee at home with the points given Boston’s lack of rest, we actually like the Celtics’ side of the game better. They defend Giannis well and are getting the Bucks when they’re playing their worst basketball of the year.
Boston is also a much better road team than it’s given credit for. We’re riding with the best team in the league in this one.
Celtics vs. Bucks pick: Celtics +5.5 at FanDuel
When: Thursday, Jan. 11 @ 6:30/7:30 p.m. CT/ET
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.More info on Grant Mitchell
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