The Milwaukee Bucks play the penultimate matchup of their five-game road trip on Friday evening, angling to build upon back-to-back wins against a Boston Celtics team that’s working back from an early season hole.
Where We’re At
The Bucks found themselves in relatively unfamiliar territory after dropping a game to the Washington Wizards on Sunday, as they fell to 4-6 and had lost five of their previous six. Excuses abound, but that didn’t make the losses any less real. Now, even without Brook Lopez or Khris Middleton, they managed to manufacture some momentum by toppling the Knicks and Sixers in consecutive nights. Giannis Antetokounmpo faced a horde of New York defenders on Wednesday, but made the right reads as Pat Connaughton led the team to a 112-100 win behind a career high seven 3-pointers for the former Fighting Irishman. As a whole, the Bucks lit up the scoreboard from deep hitting 26-50 triples, reminiscent of their obliteration against the Miami Heat early last year. In this case though, they needed every one of those shots to fall as they were stymied inside the arc, hitting just 35% of those shots. An outlier performance like that won’t carry over, so Milwaukee will need to find more consistent ways to score beyond hot outside shooting against this Celtics team. The real question for the Bucks is when Khris Middleton will be able to re-join the team, as Friday marks 10 days since his COVID-19 diagnosis. There are still some hopes to jump through, but sooner rather than later please Khris…I’m not sure how many more non-Giannis/Jrue minutes I can take.
As for Boston, they started out the year on a rough note by digging themselves into a 2-5 hole. Even without Jaylen Brown, they’ve rebounded to their current 5-6 mark after taking down the Raptors, 104-88. The Celtics wild ride has already included three overtime games (two in double OT) and a dominating win over the early-season surging Miami Heat. They’ve lost to mostly good teams so far, and beat up on a lot of meh ones too — outside of Spoelstra’s squad. In addition, they might’ve broke the record for earliest players-only meeting in a season.
New ESPN story: The Celtics held a players-only meeting in the wake of Monday’s collapse against the Bulls, sources told @wojespn, and responded with a win Wednesday against the Magic. https://t.co/JNiUDa7Luq— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 4, 2021
They’ve got a new coach in Ime Udoka aboard, but it kinda feels like the same old issues have cropped up with Tatum and Brown not necessarily advancing as playmakers. As a team, they rely on midrange jumpers and corner threes, preferring to avoid the rim all that much, ranking near the bottom five in terms of percentage of shots at point-blank range. That bodes well for the Bucks rim defense which remains a tricky proposition without Brook Lopez on the floor. Their defense has been top ten this season, and while they do a solid job preventing teams from getting all too many shots at the rim or behind the arc, they’ve benefited from a bit of shooting luck so far — opponents are hitting just 31.9% from deep against them. That kind of trend has stuck for Boston before though, and given the Bucks just had a flaming hot night, we could be in for a wicked 48 hours of mean regression.
As for injuries, the only major missing piece for the Celts will be Jaylen Brown,
For the Bucks, the only new addition is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is probable.
Injury Update:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 11, 2021
Giannis - Right Ankle Sprain
Donte - Left Ankle; Injury recover
Brook - Back; Soreness
Khris - Not With Team
Player to Watch
Jrue Holiday has been…uneven…since returning from his left heel contusion. It’s not that he’s been bad, but his offensive struggles are exacerbated on a team that’s without its second best scorer on a nightly basis. He found some groove against the Knicks by going 4-6 from deep, but what he really needs to get rolling again are his finishes inside. Small sample sizes of course, but he’s just 10-21 (48%) at the rim and 6-17 (35%) from floater range. Last year, those percentages were 66% and 47% respectively.
Game 13: Against Boston, Milwaukee will...
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Win big (10 or more points)
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Lose big (10 or more points)