Bucks vs. Celtics prediction: NBA picks, odds, best bets for Wednesday

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The top two teams in the East meet Wednesday night as the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Boston Celtics.

However, Boston has been so dominant that it holds a 10-game lead over the Bucks in the conference standings.

How dominant? The Celtics are winning games by an average of 11.65 points — the fourth-highest mark in NBA history, per StatMuse.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the game with a hamstring injury that also forced him to sit out Milwaukee’s 140-129 win over the Suns on Sunday.

The Celtics have two starters, Jaylen Brown (ankle) and Jrue Holiday (shoulder), listed as questionable.

Antetokounmpo’s absence, especially on the defensive end, combined with the likelihood that Brown and Holiday will play, could explain why the total is starting to tick up after opening at 222.5.

Bucks vs. Celtics odds

SpreadTotalMoneylineBucks +10.5 (-110)Over 224 (-110)Bucks +400Celtics -10.5 (-110)Under 224 (-110)Celtics -550Odds via bet365

Bucks analysis

Doc Rivers didn’t appear to be too worried about Antetokounmpo when he met the media after their victory over the Suns, saying it was a planned night off for his star. “It’s not an injury,” the coach said. “We’re just concerned a little bit.”

The move to sit Antetokounmpo for a second straight game could be precautionary as the Bucks ramp up for the playoffs.

Rivers said that without Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee focused on their floor spacing and prioritized the 3-point shot against the Suns. The Bucks tied an NBA record with 18 3-point field goals in the first half.

More impressive than even that was their 35 assists on the night. The Bucks average 26.6 assists per game, putting them 15th in the league.

We see this scenario play out occasionally, with teams doing a better job of sharing the ball when a star player is inactive. 

I’m even more bullish on the total now that Antetokounmpo has been officially ruled out for Wednesday’s game.

Boston ranks 25th in opponent 3-point attempts (36.9 allowed per game), and Milwaukee is sixth in 3-point shooting percentage (37.8%), per TeamRankings.

Based on those numbers, this matchup could have the makings of a high-scoring affair.

Celtics analysis

The Celtics are a fascinating study when you dig into the numbers.

Their offense gets plenty of plaudits, ranking first in efficiency with a 122.0 rating. However, their defense is also elite, as their 110.2 rating ranks second in the NBA to Minnesota.

The Celtics’ totals heavily favor their offense; they have an average total of 230.3 points, putting them in the top half of the league, per KillerSports.

Yet, the Celtics are 32-36 to the under.

The reality is many teams lack the personnel to keep pace with Boston’s style of play, which is why a higher percentage of these games finish under the total despite the Celtics’ dominant scoring.

Derrick White and the Celtics comfortably lead the Eastern Conference. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Boston attempts roughly three more 3-pointers than any team in the league while making almost two more perimeter shots than its closest competitor.

Even when the Celtics have a poor shooting night from beyond the arc, they stick to their game plan and continue launching shots in an attempt to get out of the slump.

Thus, if teams are unsuccessful in making the Celtics play differently, they’re left to adapt to their playing style, whether or not they have the personnel to do so. 

Bucks vs. Celtics pick

This total is lower than each of the last five meetings between the Bucks and Celtics. The average over/under in those games was 235.2, so it’s astonishing to see such a low opening number.

It’s worth noting that all five meetings finished over the current total for this game by a reasonable margin.

Betting on the NBA?

And Antetokounmpo’s absence could even improve the chances for a higher-scoring game.

I’d expect this total to continue rising as we get closer to tipoff; my model projects it should be around 232 points.

Pick: Over 224 points (-110, bet365)

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