After two semi-competitive first round sweeps for both Boston and Milwaukee, I’m really looking forward to a great second round series that tips off Sunday in Milwaukee. Both teams went 4-0 ATS in their first round series with 3 of 4 games going under the total for Boston and 3 of 4 going over for Milwaukee.
The Bucks may have the best player in MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 3 games vs Celtics in regular season, but the Celtics have the more seasoned Playoff roster, led by veterans Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Kyrie, who missed last year’s Playoffs due to injury, is one of the best “closers” in the business and raises his level in the post season. Irving averaged 22.5 points, 7.8 assists (2.5 turnovers) and 4.5 rebounds per game in the Indiana series and shot 42.3% from 3. Giannis ended up even in plus/minus through his three regular season games against Boston, but was +14 in the game where Celtics were without front court veterans, Horford and Marcus Morris. He went a combined -14 when both played.
The Celtics are currently on a 10-3 ATS run versus the Bucks and the Over has cashed 9 times in the last 12 head-to-head meetings. Both teams have a small sample of games off 3+ days of rest, Boston going 4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS while Milwaukee went 5-0 SU, but 2-3 ATS. Second round series openers are a coin flip with home teams going 14-10 SU and 11-13 ATS over the last six seasons. These two teams played a great seven game series last year in the first round, where Terry Rozier played a key role in the Celtics series victory.
I anticipate a lot of trash talk and some physicality in this series, where Boston will try to establish themselves defensively in the paint. Celtics will be without key perimeter defender, Marcus Smart (oblique) and the Bucks will most likely be without starting guard, Malcom Brogdon (foot). An interesting stat to look for, Boston is 28-2 SU when Gordon Hayward shoots 50% or better from the field. Hayward has turned it up lately, averaging 18.3 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game in April. I am anticipating a long, hard fought series here with the veteran Celtics feeling disrespected and using it to their advantage.
It will be tough to win game one on the road, but far from impossible. Either way, I like the Celtics to keep this one close with a chance to win at the end.
PICK: CELTICS (+8)