OK Bucks, time to pick on someone your own size.
Having beaten up on the dregs of the Eastern Conference during their current four-game winning streak, the Milwaukee Bucks figure to face a stiffer test on Tuesday when the playoff-worthy Boston Celtics arrive in Milwaukee on the first night of a back-to-back for both teams. Granted, the Celtics haven't exactly been setting the world on fire during a 2-3 start, but they should represent a much better barometer for where the Bucks hope to be after bouncing back over the past week from an ugly 0-3 start.
The injury story for Milwaukee is likely to be unchanged from the weekend, with Michael Carter-Williams (ankle) and O.J. Mayo (hamstring) unable to practice on Monday and presumable out until further notice. That means we're likely to see the same starting five we saw in the Friday/Saturday sweep of the Knicks and Nets, with Tyler Ennis as the stay-out-of-the-way point guard and Jabari Parker continuing to progress in his return from last December's torn ACL.
Contrary to earlier suggestions that Parker would sit out back-to-backs, Jabari both played and saw his minutes tick up on Saturday, totaling 8 points (4/7 fg) in 24 minutes including a pair of athletic finishes around the rim. He still seems to be building his confidence offensively, though I'd also say his positional defense has been remarkably competent (yay!) since returning last Wednesday against the Sixers. I imagine it will still be a while before Jabari is taking on a heavier load offensively, but who knows. In the meantime, let's just hope he can continue to stay healthy while building up his minutes and providing some complementary scoring. And on the latter point, is it weird that the Bucks guards basically haven't even looked at him when he's rolled for open looks at the three point arc? He's tended to attack when guys back way off him anyway, but I'd love to see the Bucks look for him as a pick-and-pop option a bit more.
Other subplots: Can Greivis Vasquez actually make a shot? And can Giannis Antetokounmpo take enough shots to keep Bucks nation happy? The former seems to be only a matter of time, while the latter might be a bit trickier proposition. After scoring 17 or more points in each of his first five games, Giannis registered a more modest 11 points on 4/8 shooting Saturday night against the Nets. Those figures were especially frustrating considering he had seven of his points in the early stages of the first quarter, but from there on out he missed a couple layups and then didn't play a significant role in the Bucks' offense in the second half. He wasn't completely frozen out from getting touches, but the Bucks still don't rely on him consistently for looks and -- for better or worse -- it's just not really in his nature to chase his own shots (at least not consistently). It's still difficult to like a box score where Vasquez misses more shots (10) than Giannis attempts (8), but hopefully that's something that corrects itself on Tuesday.
Celtics Scouting Report
"We have some thirsty ass guards," Turner said. "Those dudes -- Avery [Bradley], [Marcus] Smart, Jae [Crowder] -- that's what they excel at: Defense. And obviously we can get stops in bundles. Obviously when you rotate and do your job defensively it makes it more easier for you to get steals if you're in the right place, right time."
The C's rank 8th overall in defensive efficiency, and their statistical profile currently bears a rather striking resemblance to last year's Bucks: foul a lot (26th), rebound poorly (27th), contest shots (10th in eFG%) and force a ton of turnovers (1st in TO% and steal rate). On Friday they got it done with bench spark plug Isaiah Thomas subbing into the starting lineup for Marcus Smart (sprained toe), an injury that is expected to prevent him from playing against the Bucks as well. Former Marquette star Jae Crowder is expected to play despite a leg injury.
Also worth watching is Boston's frontcourt, where Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson have displaced the out of favor David Lee and Tyler Zeller in the starting five. Both Sullinger and Johnson are putting up excellent efficiency numbers thus far, with Sullinger's gaudy stats (19.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per 36, 24.8 PER) coming at a rather opportune time. After three years of questions about his weight and dedication, he's got a big contract to play for as a restricted free agent next summer.
In terms of matchups, Parker doesn't have the beef to bang with Sully down low, so you'd think the Bucks might put Parker on either Johnson or Crowder with Greg Monroe taking Sullinger. The other end could be just as interesting, with Parker a potential mismatch option against the Celtics' big frontcourt. Parker's been getting plenty of looks at open midrangers and he's been solid on them so far, though ideally he'd start getting some higher efficiency looks as well. Perhaps not surprisingly given the circumstances, Parker's only gotten to the line for one free throw in three games, something he struggled with early last season as well. As a rookie, Parker was weirdly 0-6 from the line in his first seven home games, then went 13/14 in his eighth.
Whatever happens, don't expect Brad Stevens' club to play it slow: they rank 1st overall in pace and 5th in fast break points.
|15/16 NBA Season|
|November 10, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Isaiah Thomas||PG||Tyler Ennis|
|Avery Bradley||SG||Khris Middleton|
|Jae Crowder||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Jared Sullinger||PF||Jabari Parker|
|Amir Johnson||C||Greg Monroe|
|15/16 Advanced Stats|
|102.2 (1st)||Pace||93.9 (27th)|
|101.3 (20th)||ORtg||106.4 (8th)|
|98.0 (8th)||DRtg||117.6 (30th)|