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Bucks vs. Celtics Game 5 Preview: Back At It in Boston

Milwaukee and Boston are tied at 2-2, with the series returning to Beantown.

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Boston Celtics Vs. Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

We could be talking about this matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics as a potential closeout opportunity for the defending champions. We could have approached this game with a 3-1 series lead, and the attitude that even a loss would bring the series back home for a chance to clinch a return to the Eastern Conference Finals.

But we’re not.

Where We’re At

The Bucks’ defense finally broke after bending for three games and three quarters, as the zone drop conceded open looks to Marcus Smart and Al Horford that they…hit. Over and over and over again. But as frustrating as that is, Milwaukee’s fourth quarter collapse was not just the product of untimely accuracy from their opponent (though that surely didn’t help).

The story of Game 4 is the fact that Boston has options to work with while the Bucks…don’t. Khris Middleton was previously ruled out of Milwaukee’s two home games and there’s no indication that he’ll be available anytime in this series, and his absence has resulted in cascading failures across Milwaukee’s systems, both on offense and defense.

On the other side, the thrilling (for them) comeback has the Boston faithful already thinking about adding a banner to their extensive collection. And you know what, I don’t begrudge them that daydream; there’s still plenty of series left, but Monday’s game was the sort of resilient performance that correlates to “championship mettle,” the same mettle the Bucks displayed last postseason and showed flashes of over the course of this year. From CelticsBlog:

It’s a best-of-three series now. And two of those three are in Boston. That home cushion is nice, and it was earned by playing out the regular season, but the Celtics really need to get Game 5.

Expect TD Garden to be loud and out for blood. The Boston fans have a special attachment to this particular team and they’re going to want to give them a lift. And with games being played every other day now, the Celtics can use that energy from the home fans.

It would be incredibly Bucks-y of the Bucks to go out and convincingly win Game 5, only to drop Game 6 at home and set the stage for an anxiety-ridden Game 7 this weekend. If that’s how it goes…well, remember you read it here first.

Besides Khris Middleton, the Bucks are mostly healthy…save for George Hill, who had just returned from an absence and is listed again on the injury report with abdominal soreness. More on him in a bit. Meanwhile, Boston held Robert Williams out of Game 4 with lingering knee soreness after undergoing meniscus surgery at the end of the regular season, and his status for tonight is up in the air.

Boston is of course favored as the home team, so while the odds are against the Bucks it’s also a position they’ve been in before. I ran a poll on Twitter shortly after Game 4 concluded, and if Bucks Twitter is to be favored over the oddmakers, then the bets ought to be placed on Milwaukee.

Player To Watch

Much and more has been made of the opportunity that Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis could (should?) have in this contest, to capitalize on the comparative lack of functional size for Boston. Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly can’t do it all alone (though we know he’ll still try), so it would be excellent timing for the “other” Bucks bigs to step up.

But no, tonight’s sights are squarely on George Hill, who was quickly ushered into his normal spot in the rotation once the medical staff gave Mike Budenholzer the green light. Coach Bud has always had a soft spot for “his guys,” and George Hill is absolutely on that list. It’s not like he hasn’t earned that trust…but does he still deserve it? Hill was not the reason for the Game 4 Milwaukee Meltdown, but a growing contingent of Bucks fans are calling for Jevon Carter to take his minutes instead…and given the way Carter has played while Hill recovered from his various ailments, it’s difficult to fault them for hounding Bud to play the Bulldog more. Will he? Should he? Who knows?



Poll

Game 5: Against Boston, the Bucks will...

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
    (48 votes)
  • 30%
    Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (106 votes)
  • 19%
    Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (68 votes)
  • 35%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
    (122 votes)
344 votes total Vote Now

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