It’s been a perfect second half of the season for the Milwaukee Bucks (29-14), who extended their current winning streak to eight games by edging out the Boston Celtics in a 2-point squeaker.
The Bucks have won eight games in a row since the All-Star Game, and Mike Budenholzer’s squad is the only team with a perfect record since the break. Overall, the Bucks won 13 out of their last 14 games after hitting the mid-February doldrums with a five-game losing streak.
If you like betting NBA totals, the high-octane Bucks lead the league in scoring with 120 ppg. The Bucks hit the over at a 26-16-1 clip, which is third-best in the league.
East: Three Elites and Ten Middlemen
The Bucks momentarily moved into the #2 spot and ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (30-15) in the Eastern Conference playoff seeding. Even with Joel Embiid out with a knee injury, the Philadelphia 76ers (31-13) continue to hold onto the top spot in the East with a 1.5-game lead over the Bucks. Doc Rivers and the 76ers hope they can hold off the surging Bucks until Embiid returns to action after he hyper-extended his knee last week.
With the loss, the Boston Celtics (21-23) slipped two games under .500 and tumbled to the #8 seed. Not that that’s saying much. Only three games separate the #4 and #10 spots in the top-heavy Eastern Conference. A glut of seven break-even teams, including the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls continue to cannibalize each other.
With 25 or so games remaining in the 70-game regular season, the top three teams in the East, the 76ers, Bucks, and Nets, are jockeying for the #1 seed. Meanwhile, the rest of the East is fighting to make sure they’re not one of the bubble teams.
Bucks Extend Streak Despite a Sore Freak
Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo, nursing a sprained knee, returned to action after missing only one game during the Bucks’ current winning streak. The Greek Freak scored only 13 points against the Celtics, but he added eight rebounds and seven assists in the victory. Khris Middleton led all scorers with 27, while Bobby Portis tallied 21 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Portis has been a huge addition for the Bucks off the bench this season, averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
After being named the All-Star Game MVP with 35 points, Antetokounmpo went on a tear upon his return to the Bucks. He posted three triple-doubles in a row after and now has seven triple-doubles on the season.
In an overtime victory over the 76ers, Antetokounmpo dropped 35 points and hauled down 15 rebounds. Against the San Antonio Spurs over the weekend, the Greek Freak tweaked his knee. He missed a triple-double with 26 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists.
Antetokounmpo sat out against the Indiana Pacers, but the Bucks didn’t even blink without him. The Bucks exploded for 140 points and routed the Pacers by 27 points. Jrue Holiday scored 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, which marked only the second time this season he led the team in scoring. Portis added 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
PJ Tucker, recently added to the roster in a trade with the Houston Rockets, averages only 1.0 ppg in three games this season. The veteran averages 14 minutes of game time off the bench, but has yet to find his rhythm in the offense.
On Deck: Celtics and Knicks, Before West Coast Trip
The Bucks complete a two-game homestand in Milwaukee against the Boston Celtics on Friday, where they’ll look to extend their winning streak to nine in a row. On Saturday, the Bucks will play back-to-back games when the New York Knicks come to town. The Knicks tend to play up/down to their opponents this season, so expect the Knicks to bring their A-game against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
Next week, the real test begins. The Bucks play 10 games in 18 days, with nine of them on the road and just one in Milwaukee.
The Bucks fly out to the West Coast for a six-game road trip that includes five tough games against playoff-bound teams. The trip begins in Hollywood next week with games against the LA Clippers and LA Lakers. Without LeBron James, the Lakers shouldn’t pose a threat to the Bucks.
Next weekend, the Bucks play back-to-back games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings. The Bucks complete their sojourn with games against the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks before they return to Milwaukee for one game. The Bucks will host the Charlotte Hornets for a single game before they hit the road for a three-game trip against the Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Atlanta Hawks.
Despite the winning streak, the Bucks are only +1000 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship, according to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. They’re fifth on the NBA futures board, trailing the Brooklyn Nets who are the new title favorite after LeBron’s ankle injury.
You can back the Bucks at +300 odds to win the Eastern Conference, according to DraftKings’ latest update.