Celtics vs. Bucks prediction: NBA odds, pick, best bets for Thursday’s Eastern Conference showdown

Two of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference meet in Wisconsin on Thursday as the Milwaukee Bucks host the Boston Celtics in Jrue Holiday’s first appearance back in Milwaukee since being traded in October.

This is the second game of a back-to-back for the Celtics, who rallied to surprise the Timberwolves in overtime on Wednesday, 127-120, in a battle of teams with the top records in the NBA.

Boston played without Kristaps Porzingis, who has been dealing with a right knee contusion since mid-November.

The Celtics have been sitting their star center when playing in back-to-back situations.

This time, the team chose the front end as Porzingis is expected to play against Boston’s Eastern Conference rival Thursday night.

The Celtics travel to Milwaukee to face a Bucks squad that is in the midst of its first slump this season. The Bucks are 1-4 in their last five games, going 0-5 against the spread in that stretch.

They are coming off a 16-point home loss to the Jazz on Tuesday. 

Utah jumped out to a 31-point halftime lead in the game and the Bucks, as they’ve done throughout parts of the season, looked disinterested, especially on defense.

At one point, the Fiserv crowd booed their team’s effort.

The Bucks are expected to get guard Damian Lillard back after missing the Utah game due to personal reasons.

Milwaukee has failed to cover the spread in four straight home games, but all came as a favorite of eight points or more.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks lost to the Celtics earlier this year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks lost to the Celtics earlier this year. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Celtics are listed as an underdog for only the second time this season; the first time, they routed Sacramento without Jayson Tatum in a 144-119 triumph last month.

Undefeated at home (17-0), Boston appears to be a different team on the road, with an 11-8 record and scoring down by almost four points, with lower shooting percentages on 2-pointers and especially from beyond the arc (40% at home, 35.6 on the road).

While this isn’t a home game for Holiday, it is a homecoming … and perhaps a bit of a revenge game for the All-Star guard.

“We’ve beaten (the Bucks) before. I’m very confident that we have a good chance of beating them again,” Holiday said Wednesday. “To be able to go back to Milwaukee should be fun. Again, a place where I was there for three years and we did great things there. But I’m onto better things.”

Boston held off Milwaukee in the first meeting this season at TD Garden, 119-116, as a six-point favorite in November.

That marked the fifth win in the last six meetings for the Celtics, while the underdog has covered in the past three matchups.

Betting on the NBA?

While Holiday won’t miss his return to Milwaukee and Porzingas expected to play, we’ll see if the other big names – notably Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – suit up for the Celtics on the second of a back-to-back, especially with the travel and overtime game Wednesday night.

With the way these teams have fared of late, it’s hard to make a case for Milwaukee with its recent struggles and the fact Boston has owned them recently.

Let’s take the points with the Celtics against the Bucks.

Pick: Celtics +3 (-115, BetRivers)

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