News/analysis after the jump...
Celtic streak. The Bucks' home loss to the Cavs on Sunday was bad, but the scheduling gods aren't doing them any favors. Tonight they'll be in Boston facing a Celtics team that's won seven straight and now sits tied atop the East standings with the Magic. Just as impressive is where the wins are coming--away from home. Five wins in the current streak came away from the Garden, and Boston is now a league-best 9-1 on the road. So, uh, could it actually be a good thing to be playing them in Boston?
Considering the Bucks are just 2-7 on the road and the Celtics are just now rounding into form, I'm going to go with the obvious "no." I'll be at the game tonight, though as usual when I've seen the Bucks play in Boston the past few years I'm starting to wonder why I feel the need to see a likely Bucks loss up close. I guess I can't help myself. Weather permitting (a big if at this point) I'll be back in Milwaukee for the Raps game tomorrow, so a split is probably the most reasonable outcome.
Star Power. It's no secret how the Celtics do it: suffocating defense (the best defensive efficiency in the league by a wide margin) combined with a pretty good offense (8th in efficiency). They're of course speaheaded by the Big Three of KG, Pierce and Ray Allen, but Rajon Rondo's emergence over the past couple years makes it more like a Big Four.
Garnett has scored 20+ in three of the last four, including some crazy shooting nights: 11/12 in Miami and 10/11 in Oklahoma City. His rebounding is down (15.3%, his worst rate insce 97/98) and he's been without a blocked shot in 12 of the past 13 games, but we all know his impact goes beyond the box score. The only upside is that he doesn't really draw fouls, which means Ersan Ilyasova might be able to stay on the floor for a change.
The C's also boat one of the league's most recognizable sixth men in Rasheed Wallace, though his numbers are fairly mediocre (9.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .379/.302/.708 shooting). At Celtics.com, Marc D'Amico writes Wallace is playing more like a big man of late:
One of the moves Rivers seems to be liking is using Rasheed Wallace as the center nearly all of the time he's on the floor. Previously, he has been playing power forward with the second unit, as Shelden Williams held down the center spot. But Wallace has been playing much more effectively around the basket and taking less threes over the past four contests, making him a more useful weapon at center.
Brogut. The supporting work of Luke Ridnour, Ilyasova and Hakim Warrick is nice when they can get it, but at the end of the day the Bucks need production from Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings to be effective. Bogut's recent funk continued on Sunday, shooting below 50% for the third straight game and once again failing to reach double digits in either points or rebounds. What's strange is that Bogut's struggles came after an eight game stretch where he never shot under 50% or scored less than 13. Not surprisingly, his win/loss splits are black and white: 18.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 57.6% shooting in wins compared to just 10.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and 42.0% shooting. It's not a PT thing either--he's played 34 mpg in losses and 32 mpg in wins.
As for Jennings, he had a bit more success in the scoring department against the Cavs (24 pts, 9/22 shooting) but is still adjusting to the increased attention he's gotten since his monster start to the season. The C's have one of the league's toughest defensive PGs in Rondo, not to mention perhaps the best big P&R defender in recent memory in Garnett, so Jennings has his work cut out for him.