The Pick: Bucks 95-91
These are two bad basketball teams, but in the Eastern Conference they have a shot. The Celtics are one game out of the playoff picture and the Bucks have 67 percent of their victories this season against Boston. It’s a flip of the coin when dealing with awful teams, but you’re giving me 7.5 points to take what I feel is a very bad roster that has already lost two games to Milwaukee? I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but I’m taking the Bucks.
Both of these teams last played on Saturday in Milwaukee where the home team won despite a 21 and 14 effort from Jared Sullinger and losing the paint battle 46-30. The Bucks won in large part due to the athleticism and length in their front court (John Henson, Ekepe Udoh, and Giannis Antetokounmpo), as the trio combined to block six shots (alter many others) and snag 30 rebounds. Is that the most talented front court in the league? Not even close, but the athleticism is very real and that is something that will never take a night off. On the perimeter, Avery Bradley is a nice defender and figures to give Brandon Knight a difficult time, but the rest of the Celtics are questionable defensively. Say what you want to about O.J. Mayo, but the man can score the basketball (he had his most efficient scoring effort in their last meeting as he scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting).
When Boston has the ball I worry about their ability to distribute. Not only do they rank 29th in the league in assists per game, but the Bucks also rank in the top half of the league in assists against. Teams with elite scorers can overcome a stagnant offense (think Carmelo Anthony), but Boston lacks a go-to player, thus making their league-low 1.07 assist-to-turnover ratio a damning statistic. They have one player who scores at least five points per game that averages more than 1.6 assists. They’ve got some big bodies on the interior (Sullinger, Brandon Bass, and Kelly Olynyk), but I’m not sure they can deal with the athletic bigs of Milwaukee.
Fun Fact: The Bucks are assisting on nearly 63 percent of their buckets (very comparable to the offense Chris Paul leads) while the Celtics assist on 49 percent of their buckets (comparable only to the me-first offense the Toronto Raptors run).