The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks continue their rivalry on Christmas Day, and it’s the reigning NBA champions under pressure.
Boston owns a pair of home wins over the Bucks but will looking to win in Milwaukee as a resounding underdog in the third matchup of the four-game season series.
NBA betting odds have the Bucks at -3, so there is not a lot of confidence with the defending champions. That’s because two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Milwaukee’s win in Dallas on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols.
Game: Boston Celtics (16-16) at Milwaukee Bucks (21-13)
Location: Fiserv Forum
Day/Time: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks
Celtics Match Up Well
Despite owning a .500 record, the Boston Celtics will take solace knowing they have beaten the Bucks twice already.
The Celtics won the first outing 122-113 in overtime before winning 117-103. They were played at TD Garden, which gave the Celtics an advantage. However, it gives them confidence of pulling out another top performance against their Eastern Conference rivals.
Consistency has been tough to come by, which includes alternating wins and losses over the last week. They scored quality wins over the Bucks, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, but losses to Phoenix, Golden State and Philadelphia haven’t helped.
We’re giving credit to Boston for hanging with the 76ers and the Warriors. They lost by five points or less, so they haven’t been far away.
In the most recent meeting against the Bucks, Jayson Tatum had a big night. He scored 42 points, with 16 coming in the fourth quarter.
It was the defense that shined for the Celtics. Limiting the Bucks to only 103 points was a huge win after struggling on the West Coast swing.
“On that West Coast trip we were out of our identity,” Celtics forward Grant Williams told ESPN. “Tonight it was part of us getting back to our identity as the best defensive team in the league.”
Boston is beset of COVID issues of its own, necessitating the signing of 40-year-old Joe Johnson, who had been out of the league for three years.
Given their dominance over the Bucks and the absence of Antetokounmpo, we’re not surprised the Celtics are only +3 underdogs with the sportsbook. We would have thought it would be a four-point margin, so bettors are getting value odds worth taking.
The Milwaukee Bucks have the better record than Boston, but the were struggling to cover the number posted by bookmakers prior to back-to-back wins over Oklahoma City and Dallas.
There have been a pair of recent troubling losses by 23-and 15-point spreads against Cleveland and Boston.
Losing 119-90 to Cleveland wasn’t a good outing, and although there have been some injury concerns, it’s not a good sign.
They were extremely short-handed in an overtime loss against the New Orleans Pelicans and it was only Jrue Holiday who kept them close with 40 points.
“It feels good just to be able to come here and put on a show and to play well,” said Holiday, who scored 24 in Wednesday’s rout of Oklahoma City. “There’s always just a special place in my heart for New Orleans and it’ll always be there.”
The Bucks had covered just three betting online spreads in 10 games before blitzing the Thunder and outlasting the shorthanded Mavericks. Bettors haven’t had a profitable time backing them, the opening line of 7½ dropped to three points.
Celtics in Good Spot
It’s a big game for the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a 10-point win over Cleveland on Wednesday and look to move above .500. They have shown how to beat the Bucks and their winning run could continue.
With Antetokounmpo’s status in doubt, they could be rusty on Christmas Day.
With a spread of 7½, it was an ideal spot for the Celtics to come up with the goods. At three points, the feeling is not nearly as strong.