On Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks will be facing off against the Boston Celtics in a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. The teams met once already this season, with the Celtics holding off a late Bucks rally at TD Garden.
Where We’re At
The Bucks enter this matchup in the midst of a pretty rough January stretch. They have lost four of their first five in the year 2024, with the lone win being a nail-biter against an unimpressive Spurs team. The defensive woes reached a new low on Monday night, when the Bucks were swept off the floor at home by a Lauri Markkanen-led Jazz squad. This skid has led some fans to resort back to uncomfortable conversations regarding leadership and roster construction that were gaining traction in the fall, but rest assured: this team still has juice in its current state. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging north of 30 points per game this season, and his efficiency has been largely unaffected with the ugly results as of late. Damian Lillard is also filling up the stat sheet, although he still has room to improve as an efficient scorer. His 25-point nights seemed to be accompanied by sub-40 field goal percentages far too often.
The Celtics come to town toting the best record in the league at 29-8. They solidified their status on Wednesday night, taking down the Western Conference’s current leader in the Timberwolves. In that matchup, the team’s thin rotation allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to go ballistic, combining for 80 points in the overtime win. This squad is a well-oiled machine that can beat you on both sides of the floor. Tatum and Brown are leading the offense, averaging 27 and 23 points per game this year, respectively. Kristaps Porzingis has found new life as a stretch big, and the Jrue Holiday/Derrick White backcourt has flourished in its first season.
For the Bucks, Cameron Payne is probable after missing Monday’s game with a concussion.
On Boston’s side, Al Horford has been ruled out for resting purposes.
Player to Watch
I’m curious to see how Malik Beasley plays. Containing Dame is obviously going to be the primary focus of the Holiday/White tandem, but that plan could turn on its head if Malik knocks down a couple of threes early on. I know the Utah game was ugly, but let’s not forget that Beasley is coming off of a 5-for-8 shooting night from deep. He can be streaky, but he’s shooting over 50% from three in 2024. I know that’s only a five game sample size, but let me have my fun!
How to Watch
TNT at 6:30 PM CST
Game 38: Against the Celtics, the Bucks will..
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)