Game One of this Eastern Conference Semifinals was a wake-up call for the Boston Celtics — the Milwaukee Bucks are an entirely different team than the Brooklyn Nets.
Game Two, though, was a different story.
The Celtics and Bucks head to Milwaukee for the next two games, with the series tied 1-1. Here’s what Iowa sports bettors should know if they’re planning to place a wager on this Eastern Conference playoff matchup.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics betting odds
As of late in the week, BetMGM lists the Bucks as 2.5-point favorites for Saturday’s Game Three at the Fiserv Forum. Milwaukee is -146 to win straight up, and the total is right around 213 points. Keep checking the sportsbook. They also have a sign-up offer for the NBA Playoffs.
It’s worth noting the under hit in the first two games of the series. This makes sense, as both teams have been locked in defensively to close the year out. It’s not out of this world to assume a defensive slugfest from here on out.
The over has yet to hit in any Bucks game so far this postseason. Four of the Celtics’ last five games have resulted in the under.
These teams met four times in the regular season, splitting the series.
Betting on the Celtics-Bucks series in Iowa
For Iowans looking to wager on Milwaukee’s series against Boston, these Iowa sportsbooks have promos to get you started.
What to know if you’re betting on the Milwaukee Bucks
It’s safe to assume the first game of this series is a blueprint for what Milwaukee is trying to accomplish: Command the paint and force Boston to take outside shots. That game plan worked to perfection. The Celtics made just 10 field goals inside the 3-point arc — the second-fewest in NBA playoff history.
Game Two was a complete defensive meltdown compared to the first. Coming off a 101-89 victory on May 1, the Bucks fell flat offensively and defensively in a 109-86 loss Tuesday. It was evident Milwaukee missed Kris Middleton that game, as both Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled from the floor. The duo combined to shoot 18-for-47 (38.3%) from the field and turned the ball over nine times. Grayson Allen, who torched the Bulls as a sparkplug off the bench in the previous series, was a non-factor Tuesday, scoring just five points and taking only four shots.
The Bucks proved they can win without Middleton (look no further than the gentleman’s sweet against the Bulls in which Milwaukee outscored Chicago by an average of 23.3 points per game in the final free games). Antetokounmpo never shot worse than 50% from the floor in a game that series and scored an average of 28.6 points per game. Granted, Boston is a different beast defensively than Chicago, but it’s not unreasonable to expect Antetokounmpo to pick up where he left off.
Milwaukee covering after a loss hasn’t been a sure thing this regular season and postseason. The Bucks are just a couple games above .500 (17-15, to be exact) against the spread following a loss. That cover percentage still ranks in the top half of the NBA, though. Out of the 16 playoff teams this season, the Bucks tie for eighth in that department.
As mentioned earlier, keep an eye on that total. After the over hit in six straight games to close out the regular season, the point total in all seven of the Bucks’ postseason games have resulted in the under.
What to know if you’re betting on the Boston Celtics
The spread is going to be something to watch if you’re confident in the Celtics. So far this season, postseason and regular season combined, Boston is 27-15-1 ATS as the away team. That’s the best coverage percentage (64.3%) of any playoff team. The Celtics have covered the spread as an away team by an average of 5.6 points per game this season, which ranks first in the NBA.
If you’ve got money on the Celtics to win Saturday’s game, or the series, for that matter, then Game Two was a perfect response from Boston. The Celtics showed why they ended the regular season with the second-best defensive rating, holding Milwaukee to just 16.7% shooting from 3-point range and forcing 16 turnovers. Milwaukee once again dared Boston to shoot from beyond the arc, and this time, the Celtics clicked from downtown, hitting 20 of their 43 3-point attempts (46.5%).
Jaylen Brown (30 points, six 3-pointers) and Jayson Tatum (29 points, five 3-pointers), bounced back nicely after duds to open the series. Coming off the bench, Grant Williams put together the playoff performance of a lifetime. Williams knocked down six of his nine 3-point attempts en route to a 21-point performance. His +22 box score tied for best on the team as well.
It’s Tatum, though, who’s at the heart of the Celtics’ success. Boston needs strong showings from him if it wants its postseason run to continue. During the regular season and postseason, the Celtics are 26-5 when Tatum scores 30 points or more.
But will strong performances from Tatum and Co. translate to more points? If you’re confident the over will hit (snapping Milwaukee’s streak and Boston’s run of unders), here’s a stat for you: The over hit in 11 of the Celtics’ 19 games (57.9%) this season as road underdogs. That under percentage is the fifth-highest mark in the league. Plus, 52.5% of Milwaukee’s games as a home favorite resulted in the over.
Betting on the Bucks-Celtics series as a whole
As of Thursday, Bet MGM lists the Celtics (-125) as favorites to win the best-of-seven-game series. The most likely series correct score is Boston 4-3 (+250) followed by Milwaukee 4-2 (+350).