A long All-Star break will have allowed the Bucks to rest, recharge, and refuel in preparation for the ceremonial second half of the season. They’ll jump right into the deep end with a visit by the Boston Celtics on national TV.
The Bucks went into All-Star weekend riding a two-game winning streak having dispatched the lowly Chicago Bulls and the game Indiana Pacers. Positive! Giannis, Khris Middleton, and coach Mike Budenholzer then went to Charlotte, made some dunk shots, and had a fun time. Also positive! Another positive...we have a new show on the Brew Hoop Podcast feed! Check out Brian’s first episode of Bucks Film Room breaking down the Bucks pick and roll coverage in advance of this Celtics game.
Milwaukee won’t have an easy on-ramp back to regular season basketball, however, with the Boston Celtics in town tonight in a game that will decide the season series and playoff tiebreaker. Besides Donte DiVincenzo (heel bursitis) the Bucks will have all hands on deck, which means...
Player to Watch: Nikola Mirotic
I was proven to be a bit overzealous the last time I predicted Nikola Mirotic would make his Bucks debut, but I feel better about it this time around. Per Matt Velazquez of the MJS:
Nikola Mirotic, who stayed in Milwaukee during the break to work out, get a place to live and get treatment, says he’s planning on playing tomorrow. He’s been studying with the assistant coaches and learning what he will be expected to do.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) February 20, 2019
I don’t really need to go too deep into why Nikola is the guy to watch as it’s obvious the newest member of any team will draw attention. We’ll get our first look at how life with Mirotic may further open Milwaukee’s offense up, though don’t be surprised if he struggles to find his rhythm in new surroundings.
Sigh, all good things must come to an end at some point, and so it proved the case for the mediocre Celtics. After starting the season 25-18 they’ve ripped off wins in 12 of their last 15 games. Not only that, but their statistical profile has brighten with the a top-five offense and defense in the top-ten. That said, there’s been plenty of drama in and around Boston with Kyrie Irving declaring, “I don’t owe anybody s***”, Marcus Morris saying, “it hasn’t been fun in a long time”, and this:
Rondo hit his first game-winner back where it all began. pic.twitter.com/DimMLmzvNm— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 8, 2019
That’s got to be annoying.
Aron Baynes will be held out as he’s dealing with a foot injury and Gordon Hayward is listed as questionable after spraining his right ankle in a training session with Semi Ojeleye. More like Semi Oops-jeleye, right?
Player to Watch: Al Horford
Any time the Bucks and Celtics meet you can rely on a few things: Irving will score after executing a pretty dribble move, Jayson Tatum will take seven to eight Kobe-esque mid-rangers, and damn near everything turns on which Al Horford shows up.
Horford’s inside-outside game has slowed just a bit, but he continues to hover around his averages of a year ago. He drags defenders out of the paint with his three-point shooting, has enough craft to make life hell when he gravitates to the basket, and can be a difficult last line of defense for the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo to get through in the paint.
He’ll be of special interest tonight with Mirotic getting his first minutes. How does Bud solve the Horford riddle? Will a small-ball closing lineup do the trick? Is the starting five good enough to clean up on their own?
Game 58: Against the Celtics the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)