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Celtics Looking to Gain Ground on Giannis & Bucks as 9-Point Underdogs in Milwaukee

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Jan 16, 2020 · 6:27 AM PST

Fiserv Forum
Can the Bucks keep the good times rolling at home against the Celtics? Photo by Fischier (Wiki Commons)
  • Milwaukee Bucks have been unstoppable so far this season and own the best record in the NBA
  • Boston Celtics are on second night of back-to-back after Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons
  • Get the odds, our pick, and all the info you need to bet the game below

The Boston Celtics are heading to Wisconsin to face the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. It’s no surprise to see the Celtics as underdogs in the latest Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks odds.

These are the top two teams in the East, but the Bucks’ lead already looks unassailable. Boston missed an opportunity to close the gap on Wednesday, suffering a surprise loss to the struggling Detroit Pistons.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the favorite to win MVP and the Bucks’ title credentials have improved as the season has gone on.

Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Boston Celtics +9 (-110) +395 Ov 233.5 (-105)
Milwaukee Bucks -9 (-110) -500 Under 233.5 (-115)

Odds taken Jan. 16th

Tatum Uncertainty

Jayson Tatum sat out the Celtics’ loss to the Pistons with knee soreness. With the game in Milwaukee coming on the second night of a back-to-back, it would be a surprise to see the third-year forward take the court at Fiserv Forum. Tatum hasn’t been in his best form of late, though he put up a career-best 41 points in Boston’s January 11th win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The former third overall pick has seen his role increase this year, taking more shots per game than any other season in his career. Boston shares the scoring, but Tatum’s potential absence will take away a key offensive option for Brad Stevens’ team against the Bucks’ league-leading defense.

With Tatum sitting out on Wednesday, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown all took more shot attempts than their average for the season.

That triumvirate, along with Enes Kanter’s scoring off the bench, is part of the reason Boston have been so good this year. Their offense has plenty of options, but taking away an important one against the team with the best record in the NBA is far from ideal.

Battle In the Paint

The Celtics’ interior defense has been one of the most discussed topics in the lead up to the NBA trade deadline. Daniel Theis has improved this season, but he faces a huge task against Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday. Kanter is vulnerable as a defender. Despite an excellent regular season so far, Boston need to prove they have a defensive game plan to slow down Antetokounmpo if they are to be taken seriously as post-season contenders.

The Celtics have been a top ten defense all year. The last five games have seen a drop off, however, with their defensive rating ranking 18th in the league over that span. Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya regularly got to the rim on Wednesday, scoring 14 points in the restricted area. Andre Drummond dominated on the inside, going 6-for-6.

It will need to be a team effort to force Antetokounmpo to give it up. Tatum, a much improved defensive player, will often be used against the Greek Freak if he’s available, otherwise it becomes an even greater challenge for a Celtics team lacking in size.

Unstoppable Milwaukee

Boston have gone 5-4 over their last nine and just 11-8 on the road. The Bucks come into this game with an extra day of rest after blowing out the New York Knicks on Tuesday. Mike Budenholzer’s team have only lost twice at home all year, and many of the wins have been emphatic.

For all the scepticism about the Bucks as a postseason team, they are a proven regular season juggernaut. Even when Antetokounmpo isn’t on the floor, they are comfortably outscoring their opponents. With the Celtics coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, and potentially without Tatum, there isn’t much value in backing the road team here.

The Bucks are a good bet at -9.

Pick: Milwaukee Bucks -9 (-110)

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