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Bucks, Celtics Renew Hostilities In Potential Playoff Preview

Gordon Hayward trying to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks look to round back into their league-leading form while also sending a message to the rival Celtics in the Orlando opener for both squads. Milwaukee has claimed six of the last seven meetings and seven of nine, including a 4-1 series win over Boston in last year’s playoffs.

Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks
  • Date/Time: July 31, 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Stadium: HP Field House
  • TV Coverage: ESPN
  • Opening Odds: Bucks -5.5 | O/U 220.5 (Line History)
  • Celtics vs Bucks Matchup Report

Opening Odds Analysis

Oddsmakers opened Milwaukee as 5.5-point chalk for this neutral-floor clash, nearly a 6-point drop from the spread the Bucks were favored by in the last meeting in Wisconsin. There’s been interesting movement on the total, which was bet down to as low as 215 before soaring back to 219 by Thursday night.

Boston News & Notes

The Celtics have played Milwaukee tough in two meetings this season, beating the Bucks 116-105 on October 30 in Boston and losing by five as 11-point dogs on January 16 in Wisconsin. All-star point guard Kemba Walker keyed Boston’s offensive success against the Bucks, averaging 36 points in those two contests.

However, Walker will be on a minutes restriction Friday as he continues to deal with discomfort in his left knee. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has told the media that he’ll issue a maximum of 20 minutes to Walker, who sat out Boston’s first scrimmage in Orlando and then played just nine minutes in the second.

The league shutdown may not have bought Walker enough time to fully heal, but teammate Gordon Hayward could be a big beneficiary of the time off. The former all-star has missed 19 games this year due to a broken hand, sore left foot and knee contusion, but he’s come into Orlando fully conditioned and didn’t miss a single drill of practice in the bubble.

When Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been on the floor together this year, the Celts have outscored their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions.

Milwaukee News & Notes

The Bucks were missing four of their five starters when we last saw them play a meaningful game, and they’ll be short-handed again when they take the court against the Celtics.

Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and sixth man George Hill have both healed from ailments that sidelined them for Milwaukee’s March 9 loss in Denver, when Milwaukee also rested Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo in the final game of a long road trip.

However, the Bucks will be thin in the backcourt Friday as point guard Eric Bledsoe and fellow guard Pat Connaughton will sit out the contest to continue recovering from COVID-19.

Neither Bledsoe nor Connaughton saw any action in exhibition scrimmages and the Bucks struggled to take care of the ball, recording more turnovers (21) than assists (18) in their final tune-up game against New Orleans on Monday.

Betting Pick: Celtics +5

I’m expecting Boston to be the hungrier team out of the break and the Bucks could struggle to protect the ball without Bledsoe in the lineup.

Shark Bites
  • The UNDER is 23-9 in the Celtics’ last 32 games as an underdog.
  • The UNDER is 7-1 in the Bucks’ last 8 games.
  • The Bucks are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games.