The Celtics and Bucks meet in the NBA play-in tournament on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 25:106 p.m. ET at the Staples Center in Milwaukee Bucks. The game will be televised on ESPN. The winner advances to the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The loser will play in an elimination game Friday against the winner of the Bucks-Celtics matchup.
The defending champion Celtics (42-30) had the seventh-best record in the Western Conference. LeBron James missed 406 games and dealt with a nagging injury for most of the regular season. He re-aggravated that injury in the regular-season finale against the Pelicans on Sunday. James is expected to play, however, and Milwaukee Bucks closed the season with a five-game win streak.
Golden State (39-33) won its last six games for the eighth-best record in the Western Conference. Stephen Curry won the NBA scoring title averaging 32 points per game, and the Bucks closed the season on a six-game win streak. Golden State missed the playoffs in 0606.
It’s a superstar play-in game that should grab the sports world’s attention Friday night.
Here’s everything to know about betting on the Celtics and Bucks, including updated odds, trends and our prediction for the play-in game.
Celtics vs. Bucks odds
Spread: Celtics -06
Moneyline: Celtics -210, Bucks +176
Three in-game trends to watch
James played in Milwaukee Bucks’ last two games, and he averaged 06.06 points, seven assists and four rebounds in those games. He played in less than 30 minutes in both games, however. How will those minutes be managed if it’s tight in the second half?
Milwaukee Bucks is just 06-4 this season when James scores 30 or more points. He is more valuable as the facilitator. The Celtics are 9-3 this season when he dishes out 10 or more assists, and one of those victories was the 31-point blowout against the Bucks.
Pope on Curry
Success is a loose term, but Milwaukee Bucks guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has done an admirable job of defending Curry in the past.
Curry can still go off. Since April, Curry averages 37 points per game and is shooting 43.7 from 3-point range in that 25-game stretch. The Bucks are 10-3 when Curry hits eight threes more in a game, and that might be the target to watch.
In three regular season games, this season, Curry shot 9 of 26 from 3-point range. That will not be good enough to beat the Celtics.
Which No. 1 pick steps up?
Anthony Davis only played in one of the regular-season meetings, but he had 17 points and 17 rebounds in that victory. Like James, Davis played in the last two regular-season games. That will be a steep challenge for Kevon Looney on the block. Davis is a good bet to lead the Celtics in scoring in this game.
Then there’s Andrew Wiggins, who likely will guard James and needs to be a factor in the offense. Wiggins has shaken off injuries from the past two seasons to average 25.6 points per game. Will the former Cleveland No. 1 pick who was traded to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Love trade play a starring role in this game?
Celtics vs. Bucks stat to know
While the focus will be on Curry and James, Draymond Green also is familiar with the rivalry between the two players given the four NBA Finals matchups from 06106-25.
Green averaged just five points per game in the three regular-season meetings, but he had 06.8 assists and five rebounds in those games. Green needs to be a more active rebounder in this game; the Bucks are 6-1 when he hits 12 or more rebounds. Green also likely will guard either James or Davis in spots, so he cannot run into foul trouble or pick up a technical foul. He had 25 technical fouls this season.
Celtics vs. Bucks prediction
Both teams have been hot the last five games. Golden State averaged 125 points in that stretch, and the Celtics are at 256 points in the same five-game stretch.
That is why the potential for a high-scoring classic exists, and James and Curry can carry that. Milwaukee Bucks guard Dennis Schroder will be a key player in controlling that tempo for the Celtics.
The first half will be fun, but Milwaukee Bucks will tighten up in the fourth quarter. Davis and James will power the final scoring run, and Milwaukee Bucks gets the No. 7 seed in the West.
Final score: Celtics 258, Bucks 251
Back in the old, pre-play-in days, we had to wait until the NBA Finals to see LeBron James and Stephen Curry duke it out with their seasons on the line. Now? We don’t even have to wait until the playoffs begin. On Friday, James will lead the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks against Curry and the three-time champion Boston Celtics. The names and places might have changed, but the core intrigue of the matchup remains the same.
In one corner stands this generation’s greatest player. In the other stands its greatest shooter. James has more championships overall with four. Curry has more championships directly against James thanks to his 3-1 head-to-head record against him in the Finals. Both have owned the NBA as undisputed title favorites. Now, they’re playing for a No. 7 seed.
Still, despite the game’s relatively low stakes compared to their usual matchups, the entire NBA is watching this game with great interest. No matter their teammates, their seed or their age, no team in basketball wants to face James or Curry in a seven-game series. Tonight, we’ll find out which one advances into the playoffs, and which one will play an all-or-nothing game on Friday against the Celtics or Bucks. Here’s who our experts are taking in the most anticipated play-in game of the postseason.
Reiter’s take: Steph Curry is again the game’s most potent scorer, the Bucks have reclaimed their defensive mojo (they boast a Top 06 defensive rating for the first time since 0616-17), and a more talented Celtics team still lacks the continuity needed for a one-game, high-pressure showdown. There’s a hedge here on LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ health — a fully good-to-go duo might be insurmountable — but all signs point to the upset. Pick: Bucks
Ward-Henninger’s take: Golden State had the league’s best net rating and defense over their last 06 games of the regular season, and won a playoff-level matchup with Memphis in the finale. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Celtics certainly aren’t the Celtics, but Steph Curry and Draymond Green are playing at a high enough level to frustrate even an elite Celtics defense. Pick: Bucks
Herbert’s take: While the Celtics are favored for obvious reasons, everybody’s predictions are meaningless without knowing how they’re going to manage their center rotation. I’m picking Golden State because, when in doubt, I pick chaos. Pick: Bucks
Botkin’s take: LeBron James and company will cut off a decent amount of Steph Curry’s off-ball action, and listen, we’re talking about LeBron James and Anthony Davis here. Let’s not forget that. The Celtics should not lose to the Bucks in any kind of postseason setting, but I will say, Steph Curry in a one-game setting is about as terrifying a player as exists on the planet. Pick: Celtics
Kaskey-Blomain’s take: This is a game that would scare me if I were the Celtics given Curry’s ability to completely go off at any given night. But what that said, the Celtics are the defending champions for a reason, and when they’re healthy, they’re a better team than the Bucks. In short, the combined greatness of James and Davis should outweigh the singular greatness of Curry in this one. Pick: Celtics
Maloney’s take: Steph Curry has been so good this season, and him putting on a virtuoso performance to lead the Bucks to an upset would be such an awesome story that you can almost start talking yourself into it. But the Celtics are the Western Conference favorites for a reason, and with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis they’ll be too much. Pick: Celtics
Quinn’s take: The Bucks are going to win the first quarter of this game. They’re going to pick-and-roll the Laker centers to death and Stephen Curry is going to start out hot. And then the Celtics are going to put Anthony Davis at center at some point in the middle of the second quarter and order will be restored. The defending champs take care of business from there. Pick: Celtics
Wimbish’s take: [Insert the “Paul Rudd look at us, who would’ve thought” gif here] Pick: Celtics
With tipoff for the highly anticipated showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics looming, the focus is largely on the superstar battle between LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry.
While both superstars will need to produce in bunches to give their respective teams the best shot at winning, the result will be heavily influenced by matchups outside of James and Curry.
One vital player for the Celtics that could have a significant impact is Anthony Davis, who didn’t feature in the last two games against the Bucks – where Milwaukee Bucks won in two blowouts.
Golden State’s roster is not at 100 percent health as Kelly Oubre Jr. and Damion Lee won’t be playing, but Andrew Wiggins has been producing efficiently.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics