Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, we take a moment to savor the Milwaukee Bucks’ victory over the Detroit Pistons, then turn our attention to the challenge presented by the Boston Celtics.
What was your favorite part of the Bucks’ first playoff series win since 2001?
Kyle: The fact that I never had to worry about the Bucks if they were trailing or if the game was close. Even in game four when Detroit was leading I figured it was a matter of when not if Milwaukee would go on a run.
Gabe: The atmosphere. I took in everything at the Deer District, which is the entertainment plaza outside Fiserv Forum. I remember the Bucks harping on that as the centerpiece of the whole revitalization of downtown when the arena was going through state legislature. It really did live up to the hype. If you haven’t watched an away game down there, make plans to do so. It’s incredible.
Andrew: Everyone and everything...except Gery Woelfel.
Andrew H: The fact that the Bucks didn’t mess around. Going into the series I was a little gun shy since, you know, they hadn’t won a playoff series in 18 years. I wasn’t insanely worried, but I had reservations that they might play down to the competition. The fact that they blew the Pistons out in all four games was reassuring.
Adam: Game 1. Staring in disbelief at the screen as the Bucks manifested their purest form of destruction upon Detroit. It set the tone for what this team is capable of, even against inferior competition, and illustrated they’re not taking a lick of this run for granted.
Mitchell: The Pistons brought Blake Griffin out in Game 3 to try and shift the course of the series...and nothing changed. The Bucks are that good.
Has anything changed since our last Roundtable?
Kyle: I’m growing a playoff beard and drank a few Kool-Aid Jammers.
Gabe: Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the last roundtable. However, I’ll say my level of excitement has definitely kicked into a higher gear.
Andrew: Like Gabe, I was not able to contribute to the last roundtable. Now that Milwaukee’s first round “bye” is over, the real competition arises.
Andrew H: I wasn’t able to jump into the last roundtable either, but I’m more convinced the Bucks are ready for a deep playoff run than I was at the end of the regular season. Getting that series win out of the way, even though I was 99.9 percent sure it would come somehow, increases my confidence a bit.
Adam: No. Although Sterling’s impressive passing quells some of my concerns for this second round.
Mitchell: Literally nothing.
Alright, enough looking backwards. Looking ahead, what do we underestimate about the Celtics?
Kyle: Al Horford. He is still the type of player that can give Milwaukee fits. For all the talk about Kyrie and Tatum, the team lives and dies with Horford.
Gabe: Some Bucks fans might disagree with me, but I’ll go with Brad Stevens. I think he could roll out some defensive maneuvers that toy with Giannis and could cause some frustration amongst the Bucks offense. Thankfully, we don’t have Joe Prunty at the helm, so I anticipate Budenholzer to adjust accordingly.
Andrew: I have to agree with Kyle on this one. Horford has been in the postseason every year of his career. Crazy, isn’t it? He’s a guy yoy hate to play against, but would love to have on your team. Along with Kyrie Irving, they bring a ton of postseason experience to the table.
Andrew H: I’d have to say Horford as well. He seemed to have a knack for annoying Giannis last year in the playoffs, although Giannis is better and the offense as a whole is worlds better, so hopefully it doesn’t much matter.
Adam: The sheer number of capable ball handlers they have on their team. Beyond Baynes, their top seven is full of guys who can put the ball on the floor, create for others somewhat and try to make their own shot. Milwaukee’s defense will have to be clicking on all cylinders to assist on any leaks in the dam.
Mitchell: The Celtics happen to be built in a way that fits around many of the things that Milwaukee seeks to deny. They don’t make an effort to get to the rim, or draw fouls, or avoid midrange shots. For better or for worse, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum are going to go for a lot of buckets in that “in-between” zone, and they’re good enough to convert those looks.
What do you think Boston is underestimating about Milwaukee?
Kyle: That they think this is the same Bucks team as last year (ok, just the fans). But in terms of the players, I don’t know if Boston realizes how much deeper Milwaukee is. They don’t have the standout names but this team can legitimately go 10 deep, 11 when Brogdon returns.
Gabe: I’ll go with the bench. I could definitely see them over preparing for the likes of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Bledsoe, etc. and oversee the depth of Milwaukee’s squad. Pat Connaughton has been magnificent this postseason, and I expect him to keep rolling against his childhood team.
Andrew: From what I’ve seen, practically everything which is odd since the Bucks won 60 games this season. I’m seeing a lot of, “the Bucks are just the same as last season!” Well, you are in for a rude awakening if you believe that.
Andrew H: I get the idea that if the Celtics roll out certain lineups it could keep Brook Lopez off the floor. But then Milwaukee can counter with Nikola Mirotic. Or put Giannis at the 5 with four shooters. Or play them both. The Bucks’ ability to stretch the floor is so much better than it was in last year’s series against Boston.
Adam: Perhaps that they’ll be able to get in Eric Bledsoe’s head? He hasn’t been great against them this year, averaging just 11.3 points per game, shooting 12-27. I think he’ll need to find the sweet spot between aggressiveness going to the tin and proper shot selection from the outside. His defense is where he’ll earn his money this series though.
Mitchell: The space. Giannis is going to often be the only Buck focusing on working with the space inside the arc, because literally each of his teammates are going to find their spots outside of it. Mike Budenholzer’s fabled “blue square”-fueled spacing system is going to stretch the Celtics defense further than Indiana ever could.
Malcolm Brogdon vs. Marcus Smart: who will be more sorely missed (until they return)?
Kyle: Brogdon, he is a guy that hits the timely shots, can drive to the hoop, handle the ball and be a playmaker. Smart is just an annoying pest on defense who doesn’t help Boston’s offense
Gabe: I think I’ll have to agree with Kyle here. Although it seems as if Milwaukee hasn’t missed a beat without Brogdon, he’s always been so clutch in playoff games and brings a spark to the offense that Smart cannot match. Fingers crossed Brogdon returns to action soon.
Andrew: Marcus Smart for me. The Bucks continue to march right along, even sans Malcolm Brogdon. That doesn’t mean Brogdon isn’t important, but the Bucks just continue to win. The Celtics not having Smart is a HUGE blow to their defense. He’s the only guy on Boston’s roster that has a “chance” at guarding Giannis. His defensive versatility allows him to successfully defend most positions. He’s not an offensive threat, but the attitude he plays with gives Boston a certain type of edge.
Andrew H: I think Brogdon. He adds to what the Bucks do for sure, but I’d argue that Smart being out helps the Celtics because it pares down their rotation to give Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown 30+ minutes a night. Gordon Hayward is playing better, he can get more minutes. Terry Rozier has a more defined role. That sure looked like it helped Boston against Indiana.
Adam: Marcus Smart. Brogdon may be coming back for this series, and Smart isn’t the offensive liability as a shooter he’s been in past years. The Bucks could surely use Brogdon, but I think Smart is one of the heartbeats of Boston’s defensive performance and mindset. To this point, the Bucks are still beating along.
Mitchell: Marcus Smart is one of those guys that fans hate...unless he’s on your team (sort of like prime Joakim Noah). He has such a knack for making “those” plays, the ones that are innocuous on the stat sheet but can completely knock a game’s momentum off kilter. Brogdon is an excellent, steady, and efficient player, but the Bucks have a facsimile of his production coming from George Hill and Sterling Brown. How does Boston replace what Marcus Smart brings?
Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing for the highest stakes of his career (so far). What do you expect?
Kyle: A typical MVP type performance, just like what we have seen all season.
Gabe: I’m really hoping for a breakaway slam where he mouths “I’m the f*cking MVP” to the Boston crowd. How awesome would that be? This is the series that the national spotlight shines entirely on Giannis, and I really believe a play like that would make an everlasting impact on the audience watching.
Andrew: Domination. After being eliminated by this same Celtics team last season, I’m sure Antetokounmpo has added motivation going into this series.
Andrew H: Even though he could be the MVP, I don’t know if people around the country understand how good Giannis really is. I think he will continue to be dominant in this series like he has been all season, and everyone will be able to see it. He is literally physically unstoppable, but I’m not sure everyone truly realizes the extent of that. They’re going to now. I also think non-Bucks fans will be surprised at how much he’s improved his jumper.
Adam: His season averages offensively, but this series will be won by his defensive dominance. Don’t forget this chasedown block helped Milwaukee eke out a one point victory. The offense will get the accolades, but the Bucks will need him to be able to cover up for even the littlest of mistakes defensively against this Boston squad.
Mitchell: Giannis will make his first entry in his (hopefully) years-long portfolio that will drive his entry into the “Who’s the GOAT: Michael Jordan or LeBron James?” conversation.
Here we go, let’s lock it in: Series predictions!
Kyle: Ideally, Bucks in five, but I think it will most likely be Bucks in six.
Gabe: BUCKS. IN. SIX.
Andrew: Bucks will take care of these frauds in five.
Andrew H: It has to be Bucks in six, right?
Adam: Bucks in seven. They’ll get punched in the face once or twice, punch back, and carry that mentality into the conference finals.
Mitchell: You already know what it is. Bucks in six, forever! That’s for the culture!