Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks
Tuesday 8:00 P.M. ET
Free NBA Pick: Celtics ATS
Recommended Sportsbook: 5Dimes
The Boston Celtics seemed to have perfected their game plan to slow down the Greek Freak and if the Bucks can’t figure out how to get him more open, this will be a very short series for them. Each time Giannis Antetokounmpo touched the ball, he was swarmed by various Celtics’ defenders. Whether it was Jayson Tatum or Al Horford, Antetokounmpo experienced a difficult time in Game 1 and so did the rest of the top-seeded Bucks. Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic his star will bounce back and he will find out if Antetokounmpo recovers from a rough series opener Tuesday night when the Bucks host the Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The series will shift to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night and Milwaukee hopes to avoid joining the 2018 Toronto Raptors as the only top seed to fall behind 2-0 in this round under the current 16-team format that began in 1984.
On Sunday, the Celtics opened the series by cruising to a 112-90 victory, mostly because of how they defended Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo scored 22 points but shot 7 of 21 and did not hit his first basket until the second quarter and Milwaukee was dominated in the second half after trailing by two at halftime.
Milwaukee shot 34.8 percent and had 11 shots blocked. Antetokounmpo shot 4 of 15 in the paint and was 2 of 10 when guarded by Horford or Aron Baynes. It was Milwaukee’s lowest shooting percentage in a postseason game since Game 6 of the 2015 first round against the Chicago Bulls.
Besides counting on Antetokounmpo recovering from one of his worst games of the year, the Bucks are hoping others can help them recover from the third-worst loss by a No. 1 seed in a series opener under the league’s current format. Khris Middleton was held to 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting while Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez finished with a combined nine points on a combined 2 of 10 from the floor.
Boston is unbeaten in the postseason and is attempting to start a postseason with six straight wins for the first time since 1985-86. The Celtics are allowing 91.4 points per game in their first five playoff games and getting enough offense by scoring 101.8 points per game. Besides the stifling defense, the Celtics also shot 54 percent. It was their highest field goal percentage in a conference semifinal game since Game 5 in 2010 at Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving opened the series with 26 points and 11 assists while Horford added 20 and 11, respectively. Afterward, it was Horford’s defense on Antetokounmpo that had the Celtics buzzing. Horford was on the floor at the same time as Antetokounmpo for 22 minutes. During those minutes, Antetokounmpo made 2 of 11 shots, had two shots blocked by Horford as the Bucks posted a 63.3 offensive rating in those minutes.
The Celtics were a stellar 12-6 ATS as away underdogs on the season and should not have any problem covering the seven point spread that favors the Bucks on the road. (Read tonight’s matchup details here)