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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics Preview: Eastern Conference Jockeying

A chance to try and get a leg up on their competition for top seeds

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

After capturing their fourth division title in as many years, the Milwaukee Bucks could only savor their sweet smashing of the Chicago Bulls for a single day before they had to prepare for a showdown with one of their competition atop the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. The Celts come in on a B2B after playing the Bulls Wednesday evening.

Where We’re At

Milwaukee continues to tune itself up for the Playoffs, with the latest piece clicking into place against Chicago being Brook Lopez’s offense. It wasn’t just that he scored 28 points, it was how he scored them. That is, primarily inside the arc by bullying the Bulls with his frame and opportune cutting ability. The second some of Milwaukee’s stars started to make a move, drawing attention from Billy Donovan’s team, Lopez would start to traipse in from beyond the arc, collect the pass and typically finish through contact. His opportune scoring in the Playoffs last year was critical during dry spells for this team. Great to see it back in action. The Bucks didn’t even need star performances from any of their big three, with each scoring a modest amount and preferring to make plays for others.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics have been the hottest team in the league since the calendar turned to 2022. It’s been upon the back of their league-leading defense, which has posted a 106.1 rating all year (1st), but is at 104.9 since January 1, well below the second place Grizzlies mark of 108.3 over that time. Coincidentally, the Celts are 32-11 during that period. They were dealt a major blow with the loss of Robert Williams though to a meniscus injury, and they’ll need his rim protection to be able to make hay in the Playoffs. For now, they’ll be stuck with retired Giannis Stopper Al Horford having to carry the load inside. What a shame. They’ve still been a stout defensive team even without Williams though, and they took it to the Bulls Wednesday night, 117-94, with 45% shooting from beyond the arc. I’m very curious to see how the Bucks perform against this switch-happy scheme. It’ll be a solid barometer for them heading into Playoff time, provided they don’t rest their players given it’s a back-to-back. I’m really hoping they don’t.

The Bucks will be without one of their newer bench pieces though, as Grayson is doubtful with his usual hip soreness. Giannis is probable but I’d bank on him playing.

Player to Watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t score all that much against the Bulls, but he patiently carved them up with his passing when necessary and didn’t force anything all night. It was a fitting contrast to the 40+ point game from Joel Embiid on the same evening as they tormented the Indiana Pacers. Anyway, although it won’t be a true test against this D given no Williams, I’d like to see how this switch-happy defense is going to be able to keep Giannis down. This is the Bucks first game against Boston since Christmas, so their first test against a refocused team. I’m dubious they have the horses to slow him, but one things for certain, you can expect a few Marcus Smart flops throughout the night.



Poll

Game 80: Against the Celtics, the Bucks will....

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Win big (10 or more points)
    (62 votes)
  • 46%
    Win close (9 or fewer points)
    (98 votes)
  • 12%
    Lose close (9 or fewer points)
    (26 votes)
  • 11%
    Lose big (10 or more points)
    (23 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now

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