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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Milwaukee Versus Boston Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#3 Milwaukee (51-31) vs. #2 Boston (51-31)

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Boston can win if…the Celtics' elite defense prevents Giannis Antetokounmpo from dominating in the paint without giving up high percentage shot attempts to Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, and Milwaukee's other three point shooters. 

The Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets with a balanced scoring attack plus a stifling defense that held Kevin Durant to 26.3 ppg on .386 field goal shooting. Jayson Tatum led both teams in scoring (29.5 ppg) and assists (7.3 apg) while also making a significant impact on defense as the primary defender against Durant. The Celtics forced Durant and Kyrie Irving (21.3 ppg on .444 field goal shooting) to play in a crowd and shoot under duress while also making sure that the Nets' supporting cast did not run wild. The Celtics have tremendous size, speed, and versatility. 

Jaylen Brown (22.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.3 apg) had an excellent all-around series versus the Nets, as did 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (16.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.0 apg). Al Horford (13.0 ppg, series-high 7.5 rpg) showed that he still has a lot left in the tank. Horford has defended well against Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee will win because…the Bucks not only have the NBA's best player--Giannis Antetokounmpo--but they have the necessary size, depth, and versatility to match up with the Celtics. The Bucks' frontcourt of Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis will not be pushed around by any team. The advantages that the Celtics enjoyed versus the Nets will not work in the Celtics' favor against the Bucks: the Nets have a small team that does not effectively attack the paint or defend the paint, but the Bucks attack the paint not only with Antetokounmpo but also with Lopez and Portis. On defense, the Bucks aggressively defend the paint and force their opponents to make three pointers. The Bucks shut down the Chicago Bulls during the first round. 

Antetokounmpo averaged 28.6 ppg, 13.4 rpg, and 6.2 apg versus the Bulls while shooting .568 from the field. Holiday had subpar shooting splits (.407/.345/.600) but he averaged 6.8 apg and played his usual first-rate defense. He will need to shoot better versus the Celtics for the Bucks to win, particularly because the Bucks will likely be without the services of All-Star Khris Middleton for the entire series. Portis' scoring and rebounding (11.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg versus the Bulls) and Allen's three point shooting (14-24, .583 versus the Bulls) will be very important, particularly with Middleton out of the lineup.

Other things to consider: The Bucks will miss the all-around play that Middleton provides. During game two of the Chicago series, Middleton injured the MCL in his left knee, and he has not played since he got hurt. However, the Bucks have enough talent and depth to survive until Middleton returns. 

This will be an interesting matchup of two well-coached, high-performing teams that flew under the radar for much of this season as media attention focused on other teams, including the Brooklyn Nets and the L.A. Lakers.

Holiday won the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award for the second time in three years. This honor may not have the same high profile as MVP or Rookie of the Year, but it emphasizes the enduring importance of character, and it was nice that Ernie Johnson mentioned the award during one of TNT's pregame shows. It is interesting that Holiday decided to not have the presentation ceremony right now so that the team stays focused on its playoff goals. Character matters, and character combined with talent is a championship combination. It is not a coincidence that the Bucks won their first championship since 1971 in the first season after Holiday joined the team.

As much as I respect the Bucks, I did not like it when they did not play their normal starting lineup in the final game of the regular season, content to lose that game, drop to the third seed, and face the Bulls in the first round even if that cost them home court advantage in the second round. Neither the Nets nor the Bulls offered much resistance in the first round, but now the Celtics enjoy home court advantage in this series. That could be an important factor if this series goes the distance, but I think that both of these teams can win on the road, and that the Bucks will take the pivotal game five in Boston before winning at home in game six to close out the series.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:40 PM



At Sunday, May 01, 2022 3:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sticking with Celtics

Even tho Gianni's is by far best player in NBA

I think celts will get them in 7

They down 0-1 tho

Should be a great series I think bucks will miss middeleton later in series

At Monday, May 02, 2022 1:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Unless the Celtics grow taller or the Bucks suffer additional injuries, this is going to be a difficult series for Boston. The Celtics have trouble scoring in the paint against the Bucks, and we just saw that even making 18 three pointers is not enough to win. Giannis is unlikely to shoot 9-25 again, so the Celtics may need to make more than 20 three pointers to have a chance, and that is very unlikely to happen four times in the next six games.


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