Arguably the most important game left in the NBA’s regular season is Thursday’s Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks matchup. The teams have split the first two meetings and this is their last matchup, so the winner would have a head-to-head tiebreaker if the clubs finish with the same record – Milwaukee is currently up three games. If they do finish tied, Thursday’s winner would get home-court advantage. These teams will not play again after this unless it’s in the East Finals. The Bucks are -2.5 on the NBA odds.
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When: March 30, at 7:30 pm ET
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
TV / Streaming: TNT
Boston was caught looking ahead to this game perhaps on Tuesday in losing 130-111 at Washington. Boston trailed by only two points with less than seven minutes left in the second quarter of Tuesday’s matchup with the Wizards. By the end of the half, Washington had opened up a 14-point advantage and it never gave that lead away. The Celtics’ five starters each finished with a plus/minus rating of minus-10 or worse.
“We’ll play better,” said Jayson Tatum of Thursday. “We’ll come out with more pop, we’ll come out with more energy, more focus. Just learn from this game, and move on to the next one. All I care about is how we respond, and I’m sure that we will.”
After missing the previous game with a minor injury, Tatum produced a team-high 28 points in the loss. In March, the 25-year-old is averaging 29.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.0 steals. Jaylen Brown’s streak of seven straight games with at least 25 points ended as he was 9-for-19 for 18 points. Brown was named the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week on March 27 for last week, marking his third-career weekly nod.
Tatum has scored the most total points in the NBA this season with 2,106 points and has made the fifth-most three-pointers with 225. He is one of two players in the league averaging at least 30.0 points per game with 3.0-or-less turnovers (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander). The only Celtic to lead the league in total points scored was Paul Pierce, who scored 2,144 points in the 2001-02 season.
Jrue Holiday Drops CAREER-HIGH 51 Points In Bucks W! – March 29
Starting center Robert Williams and reserves Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard are all questionable for Thursday. Grant Williams is dealing with a non-COVID illness. Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser and Blake Griffin are candidates to receive extended minutes in Williams’ potential absence. Williams was initially questionable for Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards for the same reason, going on to play 26 minutes off the bench after being cleared. Robert Williams has been coming off the bench recently as the Celtics work him back into the rotation post-hamstring injury.
Milwaukee has clinched a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive season, which is the second-longest active playoff streak in the NBA and the second-longest playoff streak in franchise history. Boston leads with nine in a row.
The Bucks won 149-136 at Indiana on Wednesday playing without Khris Middleton simply as it was the front end of a back-to-back. He’ll be in there Thursday. He scored a season-high 34 points on Monday. Three-point specialist Joe Ingles played Wednesday, which generally means he likely won’t Thursday. He averages 7.0 points, 3.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Jrue Holiday went off for a career-best 51 points on 20-of-30 shooting and added eight rebounds and eight assists on Wednesday. The 27 points in the first half were the most points he’s put up in any half of any game in his career. Holiday poured it on in the second half as he smashed his previous career high of 40 points, and he and Giannis Antetokounmpo (who posted a triple-double) combined for 89 points, 25 rebounds and 20 assists in the high-scoring affair. Antetokounmpo provided 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Bucks were the first team in NBA history to have a 50-point scorer and a 35-point triple-double by two different players in the same game. At 32 years, 290 days, Holiday became the oldest player in Bucks history to record a 50-point game. It was the 24th 50-point game league-wide this season, the most in a single season since 1962-63 (34).
Milwaukee is currently fourth in the NBA, and second in the Eastern Conference, averaging 14.8 made threes a game this season. The Bucks also have three guys in the league’s top 40 for three-point shooting percentage this season, led by Jevon Carter who is 10th, knocking down a career-high 42.3% of his attempts from distance.
Milwaukee lost 139-118 in Boston on Christmas but beat the visiting Celtics 131-125 in OT on Feb. 14. In that latter game, Holiday had 40 points (then tying his career high) and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25.2 seconds left in overtime. Antetokounmpo added 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Boston was playing without both its All-Stars – Tatum (non-COVID illness) and Brown (facial fracture) – as well as Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Al Horford (swelling in right knee).
Expert NBA Prediction
Bucks 120, Celtics 117
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