After four torturous months, the NBA is back! The daily preview breaks down a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview between Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
08:30 (AEST), Sat 1st Aug @ HP Field House, Orlando
History: Played 254: Celtics 131 V Bucks 123
Last meeting: January 16, 2020: Bucks 128 d Celtics 123 at Fiserv Forum
Final Thoughts: The first marquee Eastern Conference showdown of the NBA’s restart. The 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks essentially have the top seed wrapped up, while the 43-21 Boston Celtics are third and aiming to oust Toronto for the second seed.
The Bucks went into the season’s suspension on a three-match losing streak, after not dropping back-to-back games previously. But Giannis Antetokounmpo’s blockbusting performances ensured they already had an unassailable lead in the East standings. The runaway MVP favourite averages 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Milwaukee’s scrimmage form was solid, highlighting the undervalued support cast around Antetokounmpo. Brook Lopez was a particular standout in the Orlando practice matches. But they’ll take on the Celtics without Eric Bledsoe.
The Celtics lost four of their last six before the NBA shut down. But it’s been an overwhelmingly positive campaign following the departure of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Kemba Walker has stepped into the linchpin role seamlessly, Daniel Theis has been surprise packet, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are going from strength to strength, and Gordon Hayward is getting back to his pre-injury best.
The biggest question mark hovering over Boston is Walker’s knee issues. He missed most of February and was limited during scrimmages, but is on track to line up against the Bucks.
Honours shared this season
The Bucks have won seven of their last nine against the Celtics, including last season’s 4-1 Eastern Conference Semi-finals success.
The rivals have split their two encounters so far this season. Kemba Walker (32 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast) and Gordon Hayward (21 pts, 10 reb, 7 ast) starred in the Celtics’ 116-105 win in Boston. Walker (40 pts, 11 reb) was influential again in January’s Milwaukee-hosted clash, but Giannis led the Bucks to a 128-123 win (after they led by 19 at three-quarter time) with 32 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists.
The Celtics boast the league’s second-best record against the line this season (38-23-3). The Bucks are ranked fifth ATS (36-29).
Milwaukee looked to have hit the ground running in the bubble and head in as warm $1.48, five-point favourites. The feeling is these teams have some bigger fish to fry against one another during the post-season and the Celtics could be the chief danger to the Bucks’ NBA Finals destiny, but the Bucks are the pick in this one.
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