The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics have built up a nice little rivalry over the last few seasons. The two perennial Eastern Conference powers met in both the 2018 and 2019 Eastern Conference Playoffs, with each team winning one series apiece.
Not surprisingly, the Bucks and Celtics are considered two of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference again this season. The squads will start their campaigns by squaring off in Boston today (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday; TV: Live on TNT).
Unfortunately, the preseason was not kind to either team. Injuries definitely played a part, but the Bucks went winless in their three contests and the Celtics lost both of their games. Which team will get off the schneid today with a victory? Let’s talk about this fun matchup and then give our picks and Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics predictions.
Is Jayson Tatum’s Playmaking Enough to Spark Celtics’ Attack?
Jayson Tatum is the Celtics’ best player and he is also one of the biggest rising young stars in the NBA. The 22-year-old forward averaged 23.4 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game last season and was also one of the league’s better defenders at his position.
His game is quite well-rounded, but he definitely isn’t perfect. Tatum is just an OK passer, which is a concern if a team is counting on him as the clear focal point of its offense. He did average 5 assists in the postseason last season, but that was when he was playing more than 40 minutes per game. In two preseason games this season, he was at 2.5 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, starting point guard Kemba Walker is out for this game. Tatum will need to take on a bigger playmaking role in the contest, both creating shots for himself and for his teammates. Will he have the skill and the requisite energy level to do so against last year’s best defense in the NBA?
Will Bucks’ New Players Provide Enough Spacing & Three-Point Shooting?
The Bucks’ wildly successful regular seasons over the past couple years have had a lot to do with outside shooting. The squad has ranked second and fourth in the league, respectively, in three-pointers made per game. Milwaukee employs a five-out offensive formation that challenges opponents to close out to contest three-pointers taken by every player on the floor.
This year, the Bucks may not have quite as much three-point shooting punch from their supporting players as they did in previous years. George Hill, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and Marvin Williams were all capable spot-up shooters who converted threes at a high rate. In all, Milwaukee lost more than half of its made three-pointers from last season. Bryn Forbes, Jrue Holiday, DJ Augustin and Bobby Portis all can shoot a bit (especially Forbes), but they don’t figure to replace the shooting punch that the team lost.
Not surprisingly, Milwaukee shot just 31-of-111 (27.9 percent) from three-point range in its four preseason games. Against a solid defensive team like Boston, it is going to be tough to win without getting much production from behind the arc.
Will an Unexpected Celtics Role Player Drop a 15-Point Game?
I’m not very high on the Celtics’ depth this season, especially offensively, and especially with Kemba Walker out. The starters have two 20-point scorers in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but there’s a big gap after those two. Sure, Marcus Smart averaged 12.9 points per contest last season, but his efficiency (51.8 true-shooting percentage) was well below average. Key big men Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson will score if they are set up, but no one will confuse them for great offensive players.
The rest of the roster is made up of Jeff Teague, Romeo Langford, Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams and Robert Williams. Teague is a past-his-prime veteran, but the rest of those guys are not proven as reliable offensive role players.
Will one of those guys drop 15 points or more on solid efficiency? Tatum, Brown and Smart need some help to topple such a formidable Bucks team.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
I see this as a low-scoring game between two strong teams. The Bucks have some players to integrate offensively and the Celtics don’t have the depth offensively to light up the scoreboard.
Ultimately, the Bucks have enough of an edge in the talent department to pull away from the Celtics. The Bucks’ rotation will have virtually no unproven role players in it, while the Celtics will have no choice but to thrust some inexperienced young guys into rotation roles to start this season. So it follows that these are our Bucks vs Celtics predictions for this preview:
- The Bucks are given the edge by 3.5 points with most of the U.S.-facing sports betting websites. Your best option here is to bet on the Bucks -3.5pts on the spread @ -110 with Intertops, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- As suggested earlier, the fact that this game is between two playoff locks who are rivals will lead to competitive play, which usually leads to lower scores. Both of these teams are also better on the defensive end anyway. Put money on the under 225 total points @ -110 with Bovada, BetOnline or Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.