Jordan’s NBA Picks: 71-54 (Playoffs 17-16)
Milwaukee (66-23 SU & 53-33 ATS) at Boston (54-35 SU & 43-44 ATS)
Monday, 7:00 PM EST, TNT
Free NBA Pick: 1Q Under
Recommended Sportsbook: Pinnacle
Boston’s offense has been stifled over the last two games. Kyrie Irving has been ice cold over their last two losses, so will he bounce back, or will this version of the C’s roll over and die in the moment?
Will Marcus Smart Return?
The Celtics could get a nice moral boost on Monday if Marcus Smart is able to make his return. He was injured late in the regular season and has missed nearly a calendar month. He has been able to practice lately though and reports from Sunday’s practice say that he took a charge during a scrimmage and afterwards he felt fine.
Toughness is not a problem for Smart. What may be a problem is his conditioning and offense after missing a month though. Smart is probably one of the players that Boston will throw at Antetokounmpo on Monday. If he does play, Smart could have an impact on the defensive end.
The Sharp Pick
The Bucks dropped 117.1 points per 100 possessions over the last two games of this series, so Smart’s potential return will likely help that some. However, he probably won’t help the Celtics’ offense too much. Even after dropping 116 points in Game 2, Boston’s offensive rating was just 108.4, which is not going to be good enough to beat the Bucks, especially for a home game.
So far in these playoffs, Boston has struggled offensively when playing at home. Indiana is a good defensive team, but the Bucks are probably better on that end of the court. In three home games now in these playoffs, two against the Pacers and one against the Bucks, the C’s have an offensive rating of just 100.7. If that continues, they will go back to Milwaukee in a 1-3 series hole.
Considering the Bucks also have an impressive 100.7 defensive rating in the playoffs, I see this one as a fight on defense. The pace will probably stay fast, but the defense will be ramped up to 11.
I think you’ll see it most in early in the game, especially in the first quarter. So far in the entire playoffs, Boston is leading all playoff teams with a first quarter defensive rating of 95. The Bucks aren’t far behind in 3rd, allowing 99.5 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter.
Not only that, but over the three games in this series, Boston has a 82.7 defensive rating in the first quarter.
With Smart back and hopefully providing a defensive spark off the bench late in the first quarter, I like the scoring for both teams to be low early in the game. With the must-win atmosphere in the Garden, I see Boston’s defense coming out hot early in the game, while I have no doubts the Bucks will be locked in defensively trying to stifle the Celtics and their fans out of the game.
First Quarter Score Prediction: Bucks 26 – Celtics 27