Two rising Eastern Conference powers meet up for the second time of the early season today as the 3-1 Milwaukee Bucks host the 2-2 Boston Celtics (8pm ET Thursday on TNT).
In the first matchup between these teams, a big performance from early MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo lifted the Bucks to a 108-100 win. Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon also contributed 19 points and four assists to overcome a balanced attack from Boston.
Both teams will be missing key forwards for the next several months, if not the entire season. The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle in the team’s season opener, and the Bucks’ Jabari Parker tore an ACL last season.
How will these teams match up in Milwaukee tonight? Let’s preview some key variables for the game and then make our betting predictions and picks.
Can Jaylen Brown Keep Giannis Antetokounmpo in Check?
In the first game between these teams, Antetokounmpo rang Brown up for a cool 37 points and 13 rebounds on 13-of-22 shooting. Now, Brown did contribute 18 points and five rebounds of his own, but he also fouled out. He needs to do a better job of at least holding his own in that matchup.
Brown is just a 21-year-old forward in his second NBA season, and he’s still learning how to play defense at the pro level. However, the Celtics are putting him in a featured role in Gordon Hayward’s absence, and he needs to prove he belongs.
With an MVP candidate like Giannis, Brown can only hope to make him work for his points and assists. The key for Brown will be taking good angles on defense to keep Antetokounmpo away from the rim. Milwaukee’s Greek Freak has insanely long strides that get him in the paint if he has even a sliver of daylight.
Will Malcolm Brogdon Play? Will He Be Ready for the Kyrie Irving Matchup?
Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon is recovering from an ankle injury and may or may not play tonight. His status has not been announced yet.
If he doesn’t play, the pressure will be on Matthew Dellavedova to start and play big minutes defending the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving. Delly fared well defensively against Irving in the Bucks’ season opener last week, but it’s different having to play starter’s minutes while keeping up the hard-nosed style of defense Dellavedova plays.
Obviously, the ideal situation for Milwaukee is having Brogdon ready for the contest. He brings more size to the matchup against Irving, and he’ll do more to challenge Kyrie on both ends.
Which Team Will Win the Rebounding Battle?
This is a matchup between two teams who aren’t known for their prowess on the glass. Boston had the fourth-worst rebound rate in the NBA last season. Despite the fact that the team is faring better this year, it will be without forwards Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris, and possibly without center Aron Baynes, who is recovering from a leg injury.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s rebound rate this season is second-worst in the NBA. While the squad has a lot of length, it doesn’t have much bulk outside of reserve center Greg Monroe.
There is no doubt that teams who usually win the rebounding battle win the game, though. If one of these two relatively small rosters can prioritize boxing out and hustling for balls in the air and on the ground, that squad will have the advantage in this game.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks Picks & Predictions
These teams are quite evenly-matched, but the chance that Malcolm Brogdon is out or limited makes this preview more inclined to lean towards Boston winning or at least making it a close game. Brogdon was a key factor in the Bucks’ win over the Celtics last week with his offense and defense on Kyrie Irving.
- The advertised spread by the top betting sites is the Bucks by 4.5 points. This preview recommends taking the Celtics, who should be out for revenge after losing to the Bucks after their earlier matchup. 5Dimes offers the best moneyline, so our prediction is to take their best odds of Celtics +4.5pts @ -110.
- The sportsbooks list the over/under for this game mainly at 207pts. Considering these are two long, young and thin teams who are good in transition, expect a somewhat faster pace. The pick at the odds is to place your bet on the over 206.5pts @ -108 with BetOnline.