Since opening their season-opening faceoff, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics have been somewhat the inverse of each other after a backboard-aided Celtics victory on December 23rd. The Bucks are out to avenge that L, though may have to do it without their MVP candidate.
Where We’re At
Mirroring their star’s recent swag, the Bucks are oozing confidence right now as they rack up the Ws: a 140-113 drubbing of Indiana on Monday was their 7th straight win and 12th in 13 contests. Despite missing Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee sank an insane 61.5% of their 39 three-point attempts, Jrue Holiday notched a season-best with 28 points and 14 dimes, and Pat Connaughton scored 20 in his first start of the year. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Giannis’ sprained knee seemed not to... hamper his ability to... uh, ham it up. Neither did it impact just how great and giving a dude he is.
Take all those good vibes currently around the Bucks, flip them completely, and you’ll have the Celtics right now. Fresh off an overtime loss in Memphis on Monday without star Jayson Tatum, the C’s have dropped 5 of their 7 games since the All-Star break and fallen a game below .500 and 8th in the East. It’s safe to say that people in Boston are worried. The locker room is looking for answers and the front office is apparently mulling some serious transactions. All-Star seasons from Tatum and Jaylen Brown haven’t been enough to make up for Kemba Walker’s decline, Marcus Smart’s injury absence, and yes, Gordon Hayward’s departure as their defense slides deeply from its usual top ten quality. They’ll have two chances this week to right the ship against a Milwaukee team that they’re probably not thrilled to be facing right now as they look for a slump-buster.
Both Giannis and new acquisition P.J. Tucker, who sprained an ankle in Monday’s game, practiced yesterday; they are questionable and probable respectively. Bryn Forbes is also listed as questionable with a sprained toe and other new Buck Rodions Kurucs is in the league’s health and safety protocols. For Boston, Jayson Tatum will play (he missed Monday with a non-COVID illness) as he’s off the injury report. Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford aren’t traveling with the team as they remain in the health and safety protocols.
Player To Watch
Marcus Smart has been a pain in Milwaukee’s side for years in a number of ways, including his new-found three-point stroke. He was scoreless in the opener this season but averaged 22 points against the Bucks in 2019–20 on .476/.481/.867 shooting—a line you would not associate with Marcus Smart against any team, let alone an elite defense. Still, the Bucks have made mediocre-or-worse shooters look like they’re a Curry, Smart being a prominent example as he torched them from deep at 13/27 last year. I remain curious to see how Milwaukee’s new defensive scheme handles him.
Game 43: Against Boston, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
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)