2021 NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Celtics vs. Bucks (Friday, March 26)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- The Bucks are favored over the Celtics in Friday night NBA action.
- Boston has struggled of late and will be shorthanded after a lot of activity at the trade deadline. Milwaukee has won eight straight and closed the gap on the Eastern Conference lead to just two games.
- Get Raheem Palmer's full Celtics vs. Bucks pick and preview below.
Celtics vs. Bucks Odds
|Moneyline||+190 / -240|
|Time||Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via PointsBet|
To say the Boston Celtics are struggling is understatement.
After losing five out of their last six games, the Celtics are two games below .500 with a 21-23 record while clinging to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoff race. With Boston's season on the verge of falling apart, it was a buyer around Thursday's trade deadline with hopes the new additions can help turn things around.
Nonetheless, things don't appear to be getting any easier for the Celtics with yet another matchup against Giannis Antentokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who led by as much as 25 points before taking their foot off the gas pedal in their 121-119 victory on Wednesday night.
Although this is a different incarnation of the Celtics, oddsmakers have still installed the Bucks as 5.5-point favorites with a total of 233 in Friday Night's Eastern Conference showdown.
So where is the betting value for this matchup?
Let's find out!
Desperation can make a person do surprising things. After years of Danny Ainge pump faking on potential roster moves and telling the public who they almost acquired, the Boston Celtics have finally made some moves at the trade deadline.
The Celtics traded Jeff Teague and two second round picks for Evan Fournier who is averaging 19.7 points per game while shooting 38.8% from behind the arc. This move doesn't make the Celtics contenders, but it instantly gives them another playmaker and scorer who can get his own shot and space the floor.
Fournier should work well in this offense coming off pin downs, and you have to hope that his presence will make things less stagnant and relieve pressure from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, all of whom tend to get isolation heavy at times.
The Celtics also dealt Daniel Theis and Javonte Green for Moe Wagner and Luke Kornet, which essentially clears room to make Robert Williams the Celtics' starting center. This was well overdue for anyone who follows the team. Williams has consistently been a bright spot in limited minutes on both offense and defense with his rim-running and shot-blocking abilities.
"The Time Lord" is playing just 17.7 minutes per game this season, but Williams is averaging 16.1 points, 2.8 assists and 13.4 rebounds per 36 minutes so we can see his potential in a more prominent role.
It will be interesting to see if providing more minutes for Williams can help to improve a Celtics defense that is allowing 65.6% shooting in the restricted area, which is the seventh-highest number in the NBA, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Against a Bucks team with Giannis Antetokounmpo making a living in the paint, this simply can't be understated. Boston's lack of size has been a major issue and they'll be dealing with the absence of Tristan Thompson due to health and safety protocols.
As a whole, defense has been a concern for this Celtics team all year, with their 112.6 Defensive Rating ranking 24th in the NBA, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Boston’s defense has been even worse since the All-Star break, ranking 28th with a 116.6 Defensive Rating in that time. They’ve struggled to defend subpar offenses like the Cavaliers and Grizzlies since the break.
The Celtics haven’t had much problem scoring over the past two weeks, despite losing six of their last eight games. Boston’s 115.5 Offensive Rating since the All-Star break ranks 11th in the NBA, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
The Celtics are shooting 38.2% from 3-point range and 42.5% from mid-range, two areas that the Bucks struggled to defend.
Unfortunately for Boston, it will be shorthanded for this one. Fournier, Wagner and Kornet are all doubtful to be ready to play, having just been acquired. Romeo Langford (health and safety protocols) is out and Semi Ojeleye (left hip contusion) is doubtful.
The Bucks have quietly caught fire, winning eight straight games, as well as 13 of their last 14.
Antetokoumpo has spoiled NBA fans to the point where his dominance has gone unspoken, despite averaging 28.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season. Without voter fatigue and the Bucks' dropoff from their previous regular season levels of play, Antetokoumpo's name would ring louder in MVP discussions. Instead, he's just silently dominating.
"The Greek Freak" is primarily responsible for the Bucks leading the league in field goal percentage at the rim (69.3%), and they should have a major advantage in that aspect in this one. Outside of Williams, the Celtics will offer little resistance close to the basket.
It feels like the Bucks left some meat on the bone in Wednesday night's matchup, during which they led by 25 in the third quarter. Antetokoumpo scored just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and the Bucks were outscored in the paint, 48-40. Although Milwaukee did dominate the glass, rebounding 31% of their misses and winning the rebound battle, 46-38, it's clear that this performance from Giannis and the Bucks was an anomaly. This comes directly after a game in which the Grizzlies scored a whopping 80 points in the paint against Boston, so I'm expecting the Bucks to score at will in tonight's game.
The Bucks are ninth in Defensive Rating, allowing 110.9 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass, however they are vulnerable to teams with solid perimeter offenses. The Bucks have adjusted their coverages recently but they are still allowing the seventh highest percentage of 3-point field goal attempts (38.6%) and teams are making 38.1% of them. In Wednesday's game, the Celtics were 19-47 (40.4%) from behind the arc, and Daniel Theis had a wide-open 3-point attempt with a chance to steal the game and complete a 25-point second half comeback.
C'mon, basketball gods, this should have gone in… pic.twitter.com/BzGU66layE
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 25, 2021
The Bucks are giving up the second lowest frequency of shots at the rim (27.9%) and eighth lowest field goal percentage (62.1%), however it appears they're vulnerable defensively against a Celtics team which generates most of their offense from the mid range and three point line.
These two teams played just 98 possessions on Wednesday, but they still flew over the closing total of 231 with both teams scoring more than 1.2 points per possession.
As these teams meet again, oddsmakers opened this total at 233, which I'm not sure is enough. The Celtics are struggling defensively and trending downward, while Antetokounmpo scored just 13 points on Wednesday.
The Bucks also play the third-fastest pace in the NBA, according to NBA Advanced Stats, and Wednesday's game was one of the slowest games they've played this month. I'm expecting more possessions in this game and thus more opportunities to score. The Bucks also still give up an astounding amount of 3-point field goals, which feeds into how the Celtics score.
I expect another high-scoring game from these two teams, who have averaged 241 points scored in their last four meetings. I'll take the over 233.
Pick: Over 233