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Celtics vs. Bucks Preview: Time for a new streak in Milwaukee?

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks' five game winning streak is over. Time to start a new one, eh?

Twenty four hours after dropping a 117-111 shootout in Houston, the Bucks return home looking to get back to their winning ways when they host the Boston Celtics at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Saturday night. They'll also be hoping to see more of the same from Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose last two games have featured a combined 52 points (21/30 fg) and 21 boards.

Off the court, Larry Sanders technically served the tenth game of his minimum 10-game suspension last night in Houston, though the league has yet to rule on when and whether he might be eligible to return. That also has major implications for ten-day signee Jorge Gutierrez, whose first deal expired last night but can only be re-signed if Sanders' roster spot remains open. In his pregame presser on Saturday, Jason Kidd suggested the team was still waiting to find a solution.

Celtics Update

Boston arrives in Milwaukee having won three straight, though they probably shouldn't be confused for a juggernaut quite yet -- after all, they're just 4-21 against teams above .500 this season. After beating the Knicks in New York, Boston returned home to take care of the Nuggets on Wednesday and Sixers on Friday night, leaving Brad Stevens' club in the 11th spot in the East but still just two games behind the Nets for the coveted (?) eighth spot. With their depth up front limited by injury, Stevens hasn't been bashful about going small and of late it's been paying dividends. While Jared Sullinger and backup Tyler Zeller have been productive manning the middle, the absence of Kelly Olynyk means we should expect both teams to run small for much of the night.

With Rajon Rondo now in Dallas, sixth overall pick Marcus Smart is starting games and starting to flash his unique combination of physical talent and basketball savvy. Though he isn't scoring consistently (5.2 ppg in 31 mpg as a starter), Smart is doing a bit of everything else (5.2 apg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 spg), including locking up opposing guards one-on-one -- just ask James Harden.

Injuries

Zaza Pachulia (calf) and Kenyon Martin (ankle) are both out, though at this point a shorthanded frontline is nothing new for Kidd. On the plus side, Ersan Ilyasova returned to the lineup in Houston, but unfortunately Ersan-returning-from-injury form is almost always a negative. Three times he's come back from a layoff this season, and in those games he's shot 5/24 from the field and scored just 11 points in 44 minutes. Hopefully his second game back provides better returns, eh?

Boston has their own depth challenges up front, with Olynyk (ankle) and Shavlik Randolph (hamstring) both out. That leaves Tyler Zeller as the only Celtic taller than 6'9".

Four Factors

The Celtics are middle of the pack in almost every regard, including in their four factor rankings. Boston's defense ranks 13th in eFG% allowed, while their opponent turnover rate, defensive rebounding, and opponent free throw rates are all 15th -- smack dab in the middle. Offensively it's a similar story: They're between 13th and 19th in every offensive category other than free throw rate, where they rank 29th.

As for the Bucks, they remain a model of consistency. Here's a snapshot of their offensive and defensive efficiency rankings by month and overall:

MonthlyEff

2014/15 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(27-23, 12-10 home)
vs.
Bos
(19-30, 8-15 away)
February 7, 2015
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Marcus Smart
Khris Middleton SG Avery Bradley
Giannis Antetokounmpo SF Evan Turner
Jared Dudley PF Brandon Bass
John Henson C Jared Sullinger
2014/15 Advanced Stats
91.8 (25th) Pace 96.1 (3rd)
104.0 (20th) ORtg 104.3 (19th)
102.1 (3rd) DRtg 105.8 (14th)

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