It's a potential first-round Eastern Conference playoff preview on Wednesday when the Boston Celtics visit the Milwaukee Bucks in an ESPN national TV game, and it looks as if both will be full strength for the most part. Yes, the Bucks are listing two-time reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and reserve Bryn Forbes as questionable, but the Greek Freak is expected to play. So will Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker after they missed the Celtics' previous game. Milwaukee is 4.5-point favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds.
The Bucks opened at -10 on Monday vs. the Indiana Pacers and then dropped immediately to -5.5 when the Freak was ruled out with a left knee sprain. This writer stupidly jumped on Indiana at that number, but then at the last second the Pacers ruled two of their best players, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner, out as well. Milwaukee rolled 140-113, its season-high seventh straight victory.
Antetokounmpo practiced Tuesday, so he likely will be out there Wednesday barring a setback. He's having another amazing season, averaging 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists but is not likely to threepeat as the MVP as the Freak is a +750 fourth favorite at William Hill.
Forbes (9.5 ppg) played Monday and had 12 points in 30 minutes but is listed as questionable with a right toe sprain. He has become a valuable player. Recent trade acquisition PJ Tucker left Monday with a minor ankle injury but is probable vs. Boston.
The Celtics' road woes continued Monday – they are now 1-9 against the spread in their past 10 away -- in a 132-126 overtime loss in Memphis without Tatum, Walker and Tristan Thompson.
That was the second of a back-to-back, and Walker never plays both. He's fine and will be out there Wednesday. Tatum was dealing with an illness – he was sidelined in COVID protocols earlier this season. Brad Stevens said Tatum felt dizzy before Monday's game, but he's not on the Wednesday injury report. Tatum leads the team in scoring (24.9 ppg) and steals (1.3 spg), while Walker is third in scoring (17.7 ppg).
Thompson remains in the COVID protocols, won't play Wednesday and leads the team in rebounding at 8.4 per in just 22.5 minutes a night. There is some talk Thompson could be included as salary filler in a potential trade before Thursday's deadline – perhaps to land Magic forward Aaron Gordon.
The Celtics are 1-0 vs. the Bucks this season, winning 122-121 at home in the season opener on Dec. 23. A banked-in 3-pointer from Tatum with 1.5 seconds left proved to be the game-winner. Milwaukee has taken the past four at home in the series.
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