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Bucks vs. Celtics Preview: Bucks back on the saddle against Boston

Milwaukee returns to the BMO tonight to face Boston for the first time this year

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering their seventh loss in eight games to the Raptors on Friday night in another lackluster effort 102-86, Milwaukee heads back home to tackle the Boston Celtics. Boston is only a half game behind Toronto in the East standings after an absolute drubbing of Orlando on Friday night, 128-98.

Bucks Update

A loss to Toronto, the second-ranked team in the East and humble purveyor of an elite offense, isn’t something that should rile up fans too much. However, when it’s their seventh loss in eight games, the team’s defensive effort continues to wane and their offense runs anywhere from lukewarm to frigid, the loss just added to the growing pile of discontent with recent performances.

Jabari Parker led the Bucks with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but finished -19 on the night while Giannis Antetokounmpo managed 19 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three blocks but faced foul issues the entire night. Matthew Dellavedova was the only other Buck in double digits with 11 points, but the brunt of that came from a back-to-back-to-back hot streak from deep in the third quarter.

Milwaukee’s defense looked lost to start the game once again, allowing Toronto to go on a 22-2 run in the first quarter as Malcolm Brogdon and Delly couldn’t contain Kyle Lowry the entire night. Without Demar DeRozan playing, Milwaukee was able to put Snell on Lowry at points in the second half, but it doesn’t bode well that the Bucks continued to crumble against a team without its second-best player.

Celtics Update

Boston is fresh off a destruction of Orlando last night, where rookie Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 20 points and All-Star Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and eight assists. The Celtics played without Al Horford, who suffered a groin injury and is listed as probable for tonight’s game against Milwaukee.

Boston is tied with the Clippers for the league’s sixth-best offense (109.3) due in part to the immense offensive output of Isaiah Thomas during a career year. His per-36 numbers run up to 30.5 points and 6.6 assists and this year he’s averaging 38% on eight three-point attempts and getting to the free throw line 8.3 times per game. He’s been a supercharger for Boston’s offense with a host of competent players around him to fill out the fringes. Watching Milwaukee struggle to contain Lowry last night, a disturbing bit of déjà vu seems a likely outcome tonight.

They also happen to shoot 32.6 threes per game, fourth best in the league, at a rate that’s tied for sixth-best, 36.9. Coach Brad Stevens’ offense relies on crisp ball movement and penetration to find open looks for their players, as the Celtics have the second-highest assist percentage in the league, 64.8, behind only the Warriors at an absurd 71.2.

Slowing down the Celtics offense should give fans pause given Milwaukee’s recent generosity in allowing every offense, terrible and excellent, to look like the Warriors for a night. It’s been a series of Make-A-Wish stories. Still, the Celtics’ defense has fallen off considerably this year, cratering from the fifth last year to 21st now at 106.4. Their frontline sports a notable lack of rim protection, and if Al Horford’s out, their center will be Amir Johnson, a prime opportunity for Jabari and Giannis to shimmy their way to the hoop for quality looks.

Their lankier frontcourt also offers opportunities for offensive rebounds, with Boston at the league’s worst defensive rebounding rate of 74.3%. Of course, Milwaukee’s ranked 26th (75.5%) in that same department, but Boston doesn’t have the type of ferocious offensive rebounding team that should punish them.

Avery Bradley was out for last night’s game with a sore Achilles he suffered ten days ago, so it’s likely he won’t play tonight.