Jordan’s NBA Picks: 67-49, Playoffs 13-11
Boston (54-33 SU & 43-42 ATS) at Milwaukee (64-23 SU & 51-33 ATS)
Monday, 8:00 PM EST, TNT
Free NBA Pick: UNDER 1Q
Best Line Offered: 5Dimes
The Bucks are going to come out with a must-win mentality in Game 2 and that could alter some things in the NBA Odds. Both teams are very capable defensively and early in the game is where it shows the most.
First Quarter Defense
Game 2 will be the fifth time Boston and Milwaukee have hooked up this season and there have been some trends establishing over those games that should continue Tuesday evening. During the regular season, the Bucks and Celtics routinely had strong defensive first quarters against one another.
The Bucks held Boston to an offensive rating of just 85.9 during their three regular season games, while the Bucks only scored 91 points per 100 possessions during that time.
However, even after the disastrous first quarter in Game 1, the Bucks still held strong defensively, limiting the Celtics to an offensive rating of 96.3. If that can continue Tuesday, there could be some room for a couple of first quarter bets.
The first is the under. At 54 and declining at some shops, we could see desperation defense from the Bucks in Game 2. Boston, similarly, will continue their game plan of trying to lay in on defense early, while also trying to slow down this fast-paced Bucks offense.
If Boston doesn’t turn the ball over and play into the Bucks’ fast-break approach, this will once again be a low scoring first quarter.
The Sharp Pick
Both of these teams ranked inside the top six in first quarter defense during the regular season and after watching them put up a combined 44 points in the first quarter of Game 1, I can’t see more than 54 in Game 2.
During their three regular season games against one another, their average combined first-quarter score was just 46 points. One game was 57 at the end of the first quarter, while the other two had first-quarter totals of 39 and 42 points.
Knowing the gravity of this game and the importance of getting the win, I see the Bucks coming out locked in from the opening tip. If the C’s aren’t turning the ball over and playing strong defense, the best way for Milwaukee to shut them down is better defense. They already have the best player on the floor, who is also their best defender. I expect to see Mike Budenholzer utilize the mismatch he has defensively with Giannis Antetokounmpo more than in Game 1.
I would not be surprised to see Antetokounmpo and Middleton guard Kyrie Irving more in Game 2. George Hill showed in Game 1 that he is nowhere near up to the task of guarding Irving, so the Bucks will have to think of a different strategy. If they come out with Middleton guarding Irving, with Eric Bledsoe and Sterling Brown on Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown, I could see them throwing the Boston offense off early in the game.
Either way, the Bucks’ defense did look out of sorts during the entirety of Game 1. If they have fixed that, they should come out with a renewed focus, game plan, and urgency that is enough to make their own shots go long and for Boston to miss a few earlier in the game.
First Quarter Score Prediction: Celtics 23 – Bucks 25