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NBA: Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks preview

The top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet on Tuesday as pacesetters Boston Celtics make the trip to closest challengers Milwaukee Bucks.

This is the second of three regular season meetings between these two teams and Boston currently hold the advantage after a convincing 139-118 win at TD Garden on Christmas Day.

WhatBoston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks
WhereFiserv Forum, Milwaukee
When7:30pm, Tuesday February 14th 2023 (Eastern Time)
How to watchTNT, NBA League Pass
OddsBoston Celtics +320 Money Line, Milwaukee Bucks -400

Celtics and Bucks resume rivalry

Boston overcame the Bucks in a hard-fought playoff series last season on their way to the NBA Finals, where they were bested in six games by Golden State Warriors.

The Bucks led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in the conference semifinals but the Celtics won the final two games to claim a 4-3 series win - ending Milwaukee’s championship defense.

Milwaukee had hoped to take some revenge when the teams met over Christmas but that game proved to be a one-sided affair as Boston had built up an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter and were never behind from that point as they went on to secure a 21-point victory.

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The Bucks will be desperate to make the most of home advantage on Tuesday and strike a blow against a key rival, with top seed in the East the aim for both of these ambitious teams this season.

A win for either side would potentially be a psychological boost as there is a very real chance this is an Eastern Conference finals preview, or at least a playoff series preview.

Both teams have a few injury concerns ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and if a few key men are unavailable it does perhaps take some of the importance away from the game.

Boston have concerns over their big three

There is a chance the Celtics could be without all three of their biggest stars as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are all dealing with issues.

Brown has been ruled out for at least a week and may well miss the All-Star game. The guard has said he considers himself as "day-to-day" but it appears as if the Celtics see it differently and he won't be risked on Tuesday due to a facial injury that has seen him miss the last two games.

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart has missed 10 consecutive games with an ankle injury and as it stands there is no official timetable on when he may return, although he has been back on court practicing so like Brown he could be back in action after the All-Star weekend.

MVP contender Tatum is rated as questionable due to an illness and may well be given the night off after an underwhelming display in the win over Memphis Grizzlies last time out.

Malcolm Brogdon sat out of the game against the Grizzlies due to an Achilles injury and is also considered as a doubt. If fit, Brogdon will start in the absence of Brown and Smart but there is a good chance the Celtics will be without their three first-choice guards on Tuesday.

Bucks bidding to take advantage of Boston's injury woes

With the Celtics clearly shorthanded for Tuesday’s game, Milwaukee will see this as a chance to make a statement and close the gap in the East - with the Bucks currently just a game-and-a-half behind the leaders.

The hosts do have a few injury issues of their own to contend with as key forward Khris Middleton is expected to be rested again. Middleton has played just 16 games this season due to wrist and then knee injuries, and the Bucks are keen to help the 31-year-old recover fully before a serious assault on the postseason.

Fellow forward Bobby Portis has missed nine games with a knee injury but could play some part, although chances are he will also not be risked - meaning Pat Connaughton will join Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt, with Brook Lopez at center for Milwaukee.

The spread has been set at nine points due to Boston’s major injury concerns and the Bucks are -110 to triumph with a -9 handicap.

This game may not offer the best insight into a potential best-of-seven match-up in the postseason due to the visitors’ key absentees. However, it is still an important game for Boston and it will give their bench players the chance to get some minutes against a strong team, which can only benefit the team as a whole ahead of the playoffs.

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