The Bucks will tip off the second half as slight +175 favorites on the odds to win the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks went into the NBA All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, winning two straight games, eight of their last nine and 14 of 16 behind one of the favorites to take home league MVP honors in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks will tip off the second half as slight +175 favorites (bet $100 to win $175) on the odds to win the Eastern Conference at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, and their first game will provide a good test when they host the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
The Celtics are listed as the +215 third choice right now, and they were the top preseason pick after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Boston went the distance with Milwaukee in the first round of last season's playoffs, with each team winning on its home court throughout. This year, they have split the first two meetings, with the Bucks earning a 120-107 victory at TD Garden in the latest game on December 21 as 1.5-point road favorites.
The Atlantic Division alone has three of the top four contenders to win the East, with the Toronto Raptors currently holding a 5.5-game lead over both the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Toronto has been neck-and-neck with Milwaukee for the No. 1 seed in the conference for most of the season so far, and whoever ends up taking it may be able to parlay home-court advantage into an NBA Finals appearance this June.
But first, the Raptors need to worry about winning their own division, especially with the 76ers emerging as serious contenders following the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to form arguably the East's best starting lineup. Toronto is the +185 second choice on those NBA odds to win the conference with Philadelphia the +240 fourth choice. It is hard to imagine any other team besides those four representing the East in the NBA Finals.
Of that group, Milwaukee has the best road record as well at 20-9, and that could be the key to the second half. The Bucks play 13 of their remaining 25 games at home while the Raptors have two less on their schedule but will host 12 of their last 23 opponents. That said, Milwaukee is the best bet to win the conference, as Antetokounmpo will carry the team on his back and end up edging James Harden for the NBA MVP.