NBA Picks: Celtics Should Easily Cover vs. Short-Handed Bucks

Matthew Jordan

Friday, April 8, 2016 12:00 PM GMT

The Milwaukee Bucks are just waiting on this disappointing season to end as they start a three-game road trip on Friday in Boston against a Celtics team with still plenty to play for. The C's are -10 on Heritage NBA odds with a total of 207.

Bucks Already Looking To 2016-17
I thought Milwaukee would be a playoff team this season after making it in the 2014-15 campaign with a 41-41 record and playing the Chicago Bulls tough in the first-round postseason series. Plus the Bucks won the free-agent derby for forward Greg Monroe this offseason.

But for whatever reason, the Bucks (32-46) have regressed and will finish a sixth straight season with a non-winning record. Well, injuries haven't helped but those are a part of the NBA. The defense hasn't been as good this season as last. And the Bucks aren't a good 3-point shooting team, which is a  must in today's NBA. The Bucks are averaging 15.4 3-point attempts, which is last in the league. Their 5.3 made per game is also last. By comparison, the Warriors average 31.5 attempts and make 13.1.

There's still a very bright future here led by new point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo and forward Jabari Parker, who missed most of his rookie season. The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo is averaging career bests in points per game (16.8), rebounds (7.6), assists (4.3) and field goal percentage (50.7). He has been a revelation since Coach Jason Kidd moved him to point guard  a few weeks ago and that's where the "Greek Freak" will play full time next year. Parker is averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over his past four games. He's clearly now 100 percent healthy of his major knee surgery.

Milwaukee is likely to be without two key players again for this game in guard Jerryd Bayless and swingman Khris Middleton. Bayless is out for sure as  he didn't make the trip. He averages 10.4 points this season. Middleton is the team's leading scorer at 18.2 ppg but has missed the past two with a thigh injury and is considered doubtful, although he did travel.

The Bucks are 38-39-1 against the spread on NBA odds this season and 38-40  'over/under.'

Celtics In Dogfight For No. 3 Seed
Boston (46-32) is still fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and could finish anywhere from third to sixth. Of course only the top four get home-court advantage in Round 1. Boston's remaining schedule is pretty tough: Saturday at Atlanta, Monday vs. Charlotte and Wednesday vs. Miami. Those are all playoff teams and all grouped right in with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Celtics enter this on a three-game winning streak, the biggest of which was last Friday's 109-106 stunner at Golden State to end the Warriors' NBA-record 54-game home winning streak. The Celtics returned home from that West Coast trip and beat injury-decimated New Orleans 104-97 on Wednesday. Isaiah Thomas continued his career season with 32 points, his 17th straight game with at least 20. He added eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. Thomas touched the ball 105 times, which is a ton and about 20 more than average. Since the All-Star break, Thomas is averaging 24.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. He is on pace to became the third player in Celtics history with at least 1,600 point and 500 assists in a season. The other two guys were pretty good: Larry Bird and John Havlicek.

One Celtic is questionable for this game: swingman Evan Turner due to an eye abrasion. He sat out Wednesday and is averaging 10.5 point, 4.9 rebound and 4.4 assists per game. On the season, Boston is 40-37-1 ATS on NBA picks and 36-42 O/U.

 

Season Series
Boston leads 2-1. On Nov. 10 in Milwaukee, the Celtics were -2 at sportsbooks and won 99-83. Thomas led the C's with 20 points. Boston scored 18 of the final 20 points in the third quarter to pull away. The Celtics were without Avery Bradley. On Feb. 9 also in Milwaukee, the Celtics were -4 and lost 112-111. The Bucks blew a 19-point fourth-quarter lead but won on a free throw by Middleton with 0.6 seconds left after he was carelessly fouled by Avery. Monroe led the Bucks with 29 points and 12 rebounds. And on Feb. 25 in Boston, the Celtics were -7.5 and won 112-107. Thomas had 27 points. for Boston, which was without Kelly Olynyk. Parker led Milwaukee with 22 points.

NBA Free Picks: Celtics and 'under.' Milwaukee is 1-6 ATS in its past seven games vs. teams with a winning record. Boston is 13-6 ATS in its past 19 at home. The 'under' is 8-3 in the Bucks' past 11. The 'under' is 6-0 in the Celtics' past six at home against teams with a losing road record. It is 7-1 in Boston's past eight games overall. 

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NBA Pick:  Celtics Under 204 -105
Best Line Offered:  at Pinnacle