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Bucks vs. Celtics Game Three Preview: Pivotal Matchup in the Garden

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1 was an embarrassment for Milwaukee. Game 2 was a disaster for Boston. Game 3 figures to snap both teams back towards the middle, as the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics clash to assume control of the second round NBA Playoffs series.

Bucks Update

If the Bucks want to take over this series, they’ll need to repeat what they did in Game 2. The defense roared to life in the third quarter (which Milwaukee won 39-18) and put Boston in the clamps, forcing 13 turnovers on the game. This figure is unimpressive when compared to Boston’s regular season average, but the Bucks had long struggled to make the Celtics cough up the ball during the regular season. From our series preview:

You could look at how well Boston protects the ball (averaging 12.8 turnovers per game, but only 8.0 turnovers in three games against Milwaukee), which limits the Bucks’ opportunities for transition scoring and aligns poorly with the Bucks’ pedestrian turnover creation performance (averaging 7.5 steals per game, but only 5.3 in three games against Boston).

On the health side of things, Malcolm Brogdon remains out as he recovers from a plantar fascia tear. Donte DiVincenzo and Pau Gasol join The President on the bench, but nothing is expected from either of them for this postseason.

Player to Watch: Brook Lopez

Splash Mountain has been quiet this series, and Game 3 would be an excellent time for him to erupt. Lopez is 4/15 over the last two games, including a concerning-yet-understandable 4/12 from deep; with Giannis Antetokounmpo struggling to find the right passing lanes against the tough Boston defense, Brook simply hasn’t had the looks the team needs him to get. Lopez is also vulnerable to the Cs’ dangerous pick-and-pop game, and while he hasn’t been played off the floor yet, there is something not quite in sync with him...yet.

Celtics Update

If the Celtics want to take over this series, they’ll need to repeat what they did in Game 1. Boston boasted a 19.2% advantage in effective field goal percentage (0.615 vs. 0.421 for the Bucks), indicative of how widely disparate each team’s shooting performances were. The Celtics were throwing pebbles into the ocean, while the Bucks were tossing boulders into thimbles.

Kyrie Irving was particularly good in the first game but couldn’t hit a shot in Game 2, so seeing him bounce back will put additional stress on an already-stressed Bucks fanbase. Why are Bucks fans stressed, you ask? Well, besides it being the playoffs, Al Horford is getting away with a ton of contact against Giannis when defending the Greek Freak’s drives. This is not a complaint against Horford; Giannis is a nigh-unguardable basketball behemoth and requires a different approach than anybody else in the NBA. Al Horford is an elite defensive player, plays hard without playing dirty, and does exactly how much the referees will permit. Like the saying goes, if the whistle doesn’t blow, it’s not a foul. Things could turn against Boston quickly if Horford’s defense is officiated differently, but it’s unrealistic to expect that to happen over the next two games when the Celtics hold home court.

On the health side of things, Marcus Smart remains out with an oblique injury (and he won’t be out for long), and GM Danny Ainge apparently suffered a mild heart attack on Tuesday, but thankfully is said to be doing well.

Player to Watch: Jayson Tatum

Tatum has been, in a word, miserable over the last two games. You know it, I know it, and he knows it:

“They’ve been playing good defense. I got to give them credit. They’re a good team,” Tatum said. “I got to do better. I know I haven’t been playing well. Tomorrow’s a new opportunity and I’m excited.”

One person who definitely isn’t worried about Tatum is Celtics coach Brad Stevens. So expect Tatum to get the same minutes and put up the same number of shots in an effort to get himself out of this funk.

“It’s great, law of averages plays itself out,” Stevens said. “He’ll be fine.”

Mean reversion is very much a thing, and Milwaukee could find themselves in some serious trouble if both Tatum and Irving get back on track tonight.


Game 3: Against the Celtics, the Bucks will...

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
    (95 votes)
  • 51%
    Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (208 votes)
  • 18%
    Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (74 votes)
  • 5%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
    (24 votes)
401 votes total Vote Now