In an alternate reality, I’m writing this preview in March, prepping for a Thursday night showdown on March 12th between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. Bud’s team is reeling, with their star Giannis Antetokounmpo on the mend. The Boston Celtics are finding their footing behind the rising star of Jayson Tatum. It’s a Playoff rematch that’s gained some level of rivalry in recent years. And yet, none of that came to pass, blasted to smithereens by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here we are, several months later, on the precipice of real Bucks basketball returning. The horrors of the outside world haven’t gone away, but at least we have a place to escape for 2.5 hours at a time.
Milwaukee is relatively healthy given the COVID-19 concerns. While Marvin Williams and Frank Mason were out for their stinker of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans with typical basketball injuries, the two Bucks we know were diagnosed with COVID-19, Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton, won’t play in this opening game either.
Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton will NOT play tomorrow, per Bud.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) July 30, 2020
One expects Bud will trot out the typical starters he has had for the scrimmages thus far, with Donte DiVincenzo in place of Eric Bledsoe. Milwaukee and Boston’s last showdown ended in a 128-123 win for the Bucks in Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks latest injury report listed Marvin Williams as doubtful and Frank Mason as probable.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
Middleton’s shot has looked a wee bit shaky while in the bubble, even if his overall game has seemed as fluid as ever, particularly as a passer. He turned it over six times against the Pelicans, leading partially to that horrific third quarter that spelled doom for Milwaukee. Middleton has typically torched the Celtics, and hopefully that trend can continue even after the layoff.
Boston went 1-2 during their three scrimmages, the final loss coming at the hands of the Houston Rockets, 137-112, on Tuesday night. That means the Bucks had at least one extra day of rest before they pick up play for the first time on Friday. Brad Stevens did throw away that last contest though, sitting his starters and letting Romeo Langford play 32 minutes. One expects Stevens to trot out his preferred starting lineup against Milwaukee as every team tries to get back into regular season shape.
Player to Watch: Jayson Tatum
He garnered plenty of praise for his impressive performances before the layoff, and was averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 boards and 2.9 assists on the season. His nearly 40% shooting from deep and ability to do so off the dribble means he could spell trouble for a Bucks defense that prefers to drop and have its defenders fight through picks. That’ll be the case for many of the Celtics rangy wings, with Tatum as the prime candidate. Watching how the Celtics divvy up shots and ball handling between him and Kemba should be an intriguing subplot, even with Walker on a minutes limit.
Game 66: Against Boston, the Bucks will...
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