In what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics will do battle with the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday in the NBA's Orlando bubble.
No one's going to catch Milwaukee in the East for the No. 1 seed, but Boston still has an outside shot at the second slot. That position would make the Celtics' first-round playoff matchup far easier, so this game takes on even greater significance in that context.
Can Boston show it has what it takes to compete in the East? Or will the Bucks continue their beastliness against any foe in their path? Check out abe Insights' betting preview to see the best odds, salient advanced stats and other key information for Celtics-Bucks.
Date: Friday, July 31
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Celtics 36%; Bucks 65%
Spread: MIL -5
Moneyline: BOS +180; MIL -187
All-Star Celtics point guard Kemba Walker has dealt with a lingering knee injury all season long. Even after months of work to get healthy, Walker is still limited, and will be on a minutes restriction, which puts a damper on Boston's chances.
The man who would be starting opposite Walker for Milwaukee is Eric Bledsoe, but that won't come to pass on Friday. Along with teammate Pat Connaughton, Bledsoe unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19, and both will be out.
28.4 vs. 24.1: One clear edge the underdogs Celtics do have is in offensive rebound percentage. They sport the sixth-highest clip in the Association, and the Bucks are third-lowest in this category.
55.3 vs. 52.9: Effective field goal percentage is a strong indication of offensive efficiency. No one in the NBA is better than Milwaukee here — and the Celtics lag pretty far behind in 19th league-wide.
12.1 vs. 10.9: Those are the net ratings for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum respectively. The Greek Freak is very likely to win back-to-back MVPs, so it's a testament to how incredibly Tatum has played in 2019-20.
One of the silver linings for the C's regarding Walker's injury issues has been the emergence of Tatum. Charged with being Boston's primary catalyst on offense, Tatum embraced the challenge and averaged 29.9 points over his last nine games before the NBA shut down.
As Celtics.com's Taylor Snow highlighted, the only other NBA player to rank top-40 this season in total points, rebounds, assists steals and blocks is Anthony Davis. That goes to show the type of elite level Tatum has taken his talents to.
Obviously Milwaukee has an answer for him: Giannis is the front-runner not only for MVP honors, but also for Defensive Player of the Year. Khris Middleton, too, has excellent length and athleticism on the perimeter, and with Walker not quite himself, more attention can be directed Tatum's way.
One thing not working in the Bucks' favor is depth, though, at least when it comes to the superior starting five. At least for now, Bledsoe is replaced by George Hill at the point, and Connaughton is an invaluable defensive presence on the wing.
The Celtics have a legitimate lockdown defender in Marcus Smart who can help camouflage a hobbled Walker on that end of the court. Jaylen Brown is a 20-point scorer who can hold his own guarding Middleton at least. Boston matches up really well with Milwaukee.
Both legs of the NBA's bubble doubleheader on Thursday went way under the point totals. They were hotly contested, and signs of rust were evident. Not to mention, it was the first time any of these players participated in an actual, legitimate game in the venue.
The reason that's relevant is, well, the Bucks and Boston are bound to have a playoff type of atmosphere. Despite their up-tempo styles, that tends to breed more intensity on defense. In this context, it's hard to go against Milwaukee's moneyline and spread.
When the Celtics are underdogs in 2019-20, they have a 7-12 record in hitting the Over point total, per TeamRankings.com, so wagers are go near the Under in what should be a tight, defensive affair.
Note: Odds current as of 12:15 p.m. ET on Friday, July 31.
Back to top