The Milwaukee Bucks are fresh off choking in Denver against the Nuggets. Said choking was due only to their abysmal performance, not Denver’s legal reefer, although I’m sure most of us would’ve preferred solely the latter. Tonight they take on a Boston Celtics team for the final time, in what could be a first round playoff preview.
I am going to spare everyone the specific detailes and horrific memories of Sunday night’s loss. Giannis’ play was foul in more ways than one, getting himself tossed with several minutes to go in the game. Eric Bledsoe (70 points in their last two games) and Jabari Parker (season-high 35 points) were the only Bucks who showed up to play. Khris Middleton had no game and made a pre-teen mental error to blow it late inbounding for the Bucks. They need to pull it together back home to keep pace with the Heat and Wizards. Milwaukee hasn’t faced Boston since a 111-100 loss back on December 11th. Despite Giannis going off for 40, the Bucks led for a whopping nine seconds that evening. One would hope there’s more than that fleeting amount of joy tonight, but Boston’s league-best defense doesn’t bode well for the broken watch that is Milwaukee’s offense. Thon Maker is listed as probable for tonight too.
Player to Watch: Jabari Parker
Boston theoretically has the sort of rangy, athletic wings that could switch and bottle up Milwaukee’s dynamic frontcourt. This will be Jabari’s first shot at Boston tonight though, so it will be inteiguing to see how Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum try to contain him after Denver paid him almost no respect en route to his 35 points.
Despite Boston playing without Kyrie Irving, ailed by a recent knee surgery, the Celtics have wormed their way to six straight victories, including confident wins against the Raptors, Thunder, Jazz and Portland. For everyone who is stoked about getting this team in the Playoffs, it’s definitely worth taking a brief step back. Boston has only had a league average offense this year despite the addition of Irving’s dynamism, however their league-best defense is what’s buoyed them all along. The capability of Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to switch capably from 2-4, and Horford’s ability to take on centers, gives them a malleability every NBA team would love. They’re only ranked ninth in 3-point attempts per game (30.7), but their field goal percentage is second in the league at 38% behind only the Warriors. They’re bit by the injury bug right now though, and will be without Kyrie, pest Marcus Smart, nondescript Daniel Theis and Terry Rozier III and Shane Larkin are listed as questionable.
Player to Watch: Jayson Tatum
Tatum has ebbed and flowed, as is the case with most rookies, but turned it back on for the last 13 games, scoring in double digits in 12 of those. That included 24 in Boston’s victory over Toronto on 9-16 shooting. He came into the league known for his mature offensive game, much like another Duke forward he’ll be facing off against, so it will be curious to see which Blue Devil alum gets the better of one another tonight in the scoring ledger.