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Bucks vs. Celtics Preview | Bucks hope for encore in Boston

The Bucks have just three wins in sixteen games. Two of them have comes against the Celtics. Can you guess who they play again on Tuesday night?

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
2013/14 NBA Season
(3-13, 1-7 away)
(7-12, 3-5 home)
December 3, 2013
TD Garden | Milwaukee, WI
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Jordan Crawford
O.J. Mayo SG Avery Bradley
Khris Middleton SF Jeff Green
Ekpe Udoh PF Brandon Bass
John Henson C Jared Sullinger
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.9 (25th) Pace 93.7 (17th)
95.9 (30th) ORtg 99.6 (26th)
106.1 (23rd) DRtg 103.5 (9th)

Linkage: Celtics Blog | Red's Army | Bucks Game Notes | Celtics Game Notes

Replay. The Bucks mercifully snapped their 11-game losing streak on Saturday against the Celtics at the Bradley Center, their second win as many tries against Boston this season. Unfortunately for Larry Drew's squad, they're just 1-13 against the rest of the league and (alas!) they only get Boston two more times this year. So anyone concerned that the Bucks' odds of a high draft pick are in danger...well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Bucks remain just a hair ahead of Utah in terms of scoring differential (-9.6 pts/g) so the Bucks' issues have run rather deep so far. One game doesn't change that, though we can obviously cross our fingers that strong contributions from Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo will become more regular from here on out. John Henson also started at center for the first time this season and responded with his first double-double (13 pts, 13 reb, 3 blk), though he also knows that playing in the pivot comes with required adjustments. Via Charles Gardner:

"Some of the things I have to do that other guys might not have to do is maybe play defense a little earlier," Henson said. "Not let them get to their spots.

"A guy with a bigger body like Zaza maybe can play behind and push them off. It's little stuff I have to do to help me out. But it's part of the game. You have to know your limits and know what you need to do to be successful."

So having seen the Bucks beat the Celtics twice already this season, what should we know about these guys? Well, first there's the obvious that could be said about almost any teams: whoever dictates tempo has a good thing going. In Boston's home opener, that meant the Celtics running early on a disjointed Bucks team that trailed by as many as 22 before turning the tables and sneaking out with an inspired comeback win. In Milwaukee, that meant the Bucks using their tubeman zone (Giannis/Henson/Ekpe in this case) to force turnovers and block shots while Brandon Knight pushed the pace to good effect. Also helping: Boston bricking 15 of 19 threes against said zone. The key numbers at the end were a 16-4 Bucks edge in fast break scoring and a rare Milwaukee win in the rebounding department.

Boston hasn't been great from deep this season--22nd in makes, 20th in attempts, 20th in percentage. In other words, it's not like the Celtics typically bomb anyone to oblivion, so a zone can afford to sag on them a bit. That's especially important given the problems they can cause inside, as the Bucks found out repeatedly with Jared Sullinger and Vitor Faverani using their bulk down low to score on pretty much anyone Larry Drew threw at them. Though his lack of rim protection is an issue when he's playing center, Sullinger has really turned it on of late and has become an inside-out threat for the Celtics with 19.1 ppg and 10.6 rpg per36 and team-best marks in PER (19.2) and WS/48 (.138). His impact also shines through in on/off data, which thus far shows Boston better on both ends when he's in the game: Boston scores 7.7 pts/100 more and allows 3.4 pts/100 fewer when he's in the game. He probably did the Bucks some favors by falling in love with the outside shot a bit much on Saturday (1/5), but it's a bit understandable given he made 6/8 from deep in his prior two games.

And while we're looking at Boston's on/off differential data, here are a couple interesting tidbits:

  • Starters Brandon Bass (-12.9 pts/100) and Avery Bradley (-12.7 pts/100) are by far the worst in terms of net rating among Celtics rotation guys.
  • Aside from Sullinger, starting point guard Jordan Crawford (+3.1) and reserve point guard Phil Pressey (+9.4) are the brightest lights. And yes, the diminutive Phil is indeed the son of former Bucks great Paul Pressey.

Injuries. Ersan Ilyasova--nursing a thumb injury in addition to a sore hammy--practiced Monday and is listed as probable against the Celtics. Andrew Gruman writes that a decision will be made Tuesday on Ilyasova's status.

"He's not been the Ers that everyone is used to seeing, the activity when he's out on the floor," Drew said. "I can clearly see that he's still suffering from the ankle injury. He's not moving anywhere near the way he's done in the past.

"We're just hoping the thing can hurry up and heal so we can get him back to full strength."

Ilyasova left Friday's game in Charlotte with a sore left hamstring and didn't play Saturday. Drew didn't know when the thumb injury occurred but knows it's been an issue.

"I know he's been wrapping it every time he's come out on the floor, and I know there's been swelling in it," Drew said. "He's a little wounded right now."

Hey wait a minute--a thumb injury of unknown origin?? Damn Ersan, don't tell me you were at Apt 720 last weekend...


Otherwise, and perhaps more importantly, Caron Butler sounds like he's still at least a couple games away from returning from a swollen knee, which means a clear path for Giannis to get continued burn.

Still growing. So Gery Woelfel's latest quotes Giannis saying he's now 6'10.25" and doctors are telling him he could easily be 7' when all is said and done. So that's...pretty damn cool. For reference, at their respective draft combines John Henson measured 6'9" barefoot/6'10.5" in shoes and Larry Sanders 6'9.25"/6'10.5". I would guess doctors weren't doing in-shoe measurements, so basically that would mean Giannis is not yet 19 and already taller than both John and Larry. Whoa.

For your perusal. Some recommended reading for your Tuesday:

Podcast Part 1: Giannis!

Podcast Part 2: Draft Talk!