The epic Eastern Conference second-round playoff series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics will come to a close on Sunday afternoon with a winner-take-all Game 7 at TD Garden. Boston evened the series at 3-3 with a 108-95 road win in Game 6 on Friday, covering as a 1.5-point underdog. Milwaukee is the No. 3 seed after a 51-31 regular season, while second-seeded Boston also went 51-31.
These teams evenly split four regular-season meetings, with the home team winning in each of those.
Bucks can't close out series at homeAfter an amazing comeback effort to take Game 5, the Bucks had a great chance to wrap up the series on Friday night in Milwaukee, but couldn't get the offense going enough despite a superhuman effort by Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was a tight first quarter before Milwaukee mustered just 17 points in the second quarter leading to a 14-point deficit early in the fourth, and another comeback opportunity didn't materialize as it only got as close as within four.
Giannis with a monster game.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 14, 2022
44 PT | 20 REB | 6 AST | 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/VG3CzyNe4N
Antetokounmpo went off for 44 points, 20 points, six assists and two blocks while going 14/15 on free throw attempts, with Jrue Holiday adding 17 points, four assists and three steals. Milwaukee largely struggled from the field, finishing at 40.9% shooting from the field including 7-29 from three-point range.
"The back-and-forth, I don't think a team has won two games in a row this series. It's just been one after the other. And now it's the finality. You got to go and find a way to get that fourth win," coach Mike Budenholzer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the mindset heading into a Game 7.
The Bucks have not been a good bet overall this season at 44-48-1 against the spread, including 2-3-1 in this series so far. Overs are 45-48 for Milwaukee, and nine of its 11 playoff games have gone under the betting total.
This is the third-highest scoring offense in the NBA at 115.5 points per game on shooting splits of 54.4% from two and 36.6% from three, both top-eight marks. Milwaukee's defense is below average across the board with 112.1 points per game on opposing shooting splits of 53.7% from two and 35.6% from deep, although it has been much better since the start of the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo had another incredible season, averaging 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game on 55.3% shooting from the field. Holiday adds 18.3 points, 6.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game, while Bobby Portis enjoyed a strong campaign at 14.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee's second-leading scorer with 20.1 points per game, hasn't played this series after suffering an MCL sprain in round one and is reportedly unlikely to return for Game 7.
Celtics bounce back thanks to Tatum's huge nightThe Celtics impressively bounced back from the disheartening collapse to end Game 5, turning in a dominant defensive effort on the road on Friday to ensure things went the distance. Boston was in the lead for much of the night, going up as many as 14 points following a 29-27 third-quarter advantage, and Jayson Tatum took over down the stretch after the Bucks threatened another comeback.
We entered Game 6 with our backs against the wall, and Jayson Tatum’s 46-point performance propelled us into Game 7. pic.twitter.com/dbIHRhaqpD— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 14, 2022
Tatum had a legendary night with 46 points, nine rebounds and four assists on 17/32 shooting from the field, while Marcus Smart added 21 points and seven assists. The Celtics shot only 43.7% from the field, but going 17/43 from three-point range made the difference.
“They were tougher than us in that fourth quarter of Game 5,” Tatum said via the Associated Press. “That was in the back of my mind. That was in the back of everybody’s mind, that we couldn’t get beat on those kind of plays. Our season was on the line.”
Boston has enjoyed a strong season against the spread at 51-39-2, including a mark of 6-3-1 in the playoffs thus far. Overs 44-46-2 for the Celtics with four of the six games during this current series going under the betting total.
The Celtics have a solidly above-average offense at 111.8 points per game on 54.7% shooting from two and 35.6% shooting from three. Defense is much more of a strength with Boston allowing 104.5 points per game on opposing shooting splits of 49.7% from two and 33.9% from beyond the arc, all of which are the best marks in the NBA.
Tatum has been outstanding all year with 26.9 points, eight rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Jaylen Brown adds 23.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Smart chips in 12.1 points, 5.9 assists and 1.7 steals per contest while winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Center Robert Williams III, a crucial player who averages 10 points, 9,9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game on 73.6% shooting from the field, has missed the last three games with a bone bruise in his knee and is questionable. Reserve forward Sam Houser is questionable due to a shoulder issue.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
With how tight this head-to-head matchup has been both in the regular season and during this back-and-forth series, anything over one possession either way feels like too much. Home court and momentum haven't meant anything throughout the series, and the fact that the Bucks have the most dominant player in the league gives them a great chance in a winner-take-all setting.
The only reason Milwaukee is even in this position is due to the brilliance of Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 40 points, 15.3 rebounds and five assists per game over the last four contests. As fantastic as the Boston defense is, Antetokounmpo is the rare type of player who can take over against any opponent, and Williams III being our or hobbled is a major factor as the Celtics lose size and rim protection.
Consistently getting secondary scoring is always going to be the question for the Celtics, who probably can't rely on such an absurdly good showing from Tatum every night and also likely won't shoot so well from the perimeter again as they are only 14th in three-point field goal percentage. Pulling off the outright upset on the road might be too much for the Bucks, but this is setting up to be a classic that comes down to the last possession.
Full-Game Total Pick
Boston can still play elite-level defense even without Williams III, as it was second in rating while featuring the Defensive Player of the Year in Smart. Milwaukee is in the same boat as Boston with the shaky secondary scoring, especially when it doesn't have any options who can reliably replace Middleton's 20.1 points per game.
The Bucks were in cruise control on the defensive end during the regular season to hurt their overall numbers, but as in past years have cranked up the intensity in the playoffs behind a fantastic defensive duo in Antetokounmpo and Holiday. Both teams have been defense-first in this series and with how tight Game 7s tend to be, we could see each get held under 100 points here.