A series ain’t a series until the away team steals a game from their opponent on their home court. Tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks seek to do just that in Game Five of their NBA Playoffs first round series against the Boston Celtics.
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Game Five is where everything needs to come together. We went over the overall series trends and keys to watch going forward here, and there might be no bigger key tonight than which team comes out with more energy, and who can persist for the entirety of the contest. With Thon Maker’s recent two-game block party, Matthew Dellavedova’s heady point guard play, and and Jabari Parker’s transformation into an engaged basketball player (to match his considerable natural talent), the Bucks have a recipe for an upset brewing. But they have to keep stirring to make it happen, and the series is getting thick.
Player to Watch: Tony Snell
The Bucks’ lowest usage starter was recently replaced with Malcolm Brogdon, and Snell’s impact has been limited regardless of where he is to begin games. He still communicates well on defense and generally executes his responsibilities when he’s on the court, but he hasn’t been able to get up very many threes (only 3 makes on 9 attempts, despite a sky-high 3PAr of 75.0%) during this series. In a game where role players will have to step up to push their teams over the edge, a hot shooting night from Snell would be just what the doctor ordered.
Boston has very much been playing with house money since losing Kyrie Irving late in the season, after losing Gordon Hayward so early in the year. With so much youth on their roster getting extensive playoff exposure, even struggling in this series isn’t a bad thing when you take the long view on Boston’s outlook. Still, they want to compete no matter what, and to do so Stevens will need to figure out how to outsmart the Bucks’ switching defense. CelticsBlog has a few ideas on how they might do that here. Additionally, they might be able to introduce a monkey wrench into the Bucks’ offense by way of Marcus Smart, who was upgraded to questionable with his thumb injury.
Player to Watch: Greg Monroe
Moose is a well-regarded former Buck, but his newest team doesn’t seem to have found a way for him to use his low post prowess. Sharing the center minutes with Aron Baynes and Al Horford, Monroe has struggled to get on the court (only 13.8 minutes per game) because of the Bucks’ mobility, and hasn’t made a huge impression when he does play (7.0 points per game, only shooting 40.9% from the field). Brad Stevens might not have many tricks left up his sleeve, but in a series that is already being played at a slow pace, he might turn to Monroe and turn back the clock to the 90s NBA, when back-to-the-basket offense was all the rage.