8:00 PM ET
Roughly one year ago, starters from each side sat out the Boston-Milwaukee meetings. The reason for it was none other than tanking games in order to secure a higher place in the 2007 NBA draft lottery. Well, now it’s 2008 and times have changed for one of these clubs. Milwaukee may very well be eyeing a higher place in lotto-land in the coming weeks, but the Celtics have turned the tables in the exact opposite direction. The C's currently stand at 61-15, and clinched the Eastern Conference with their sixth straight win this past Saturday over Charlotte. It may bring back hilarious memories to watch the Celtics and Bucks square off without some of their stars on the court, but the Celtics will be doing it for good reason.
Paul Pierce and his girlfriend recently had a child, and Pierce did not travel with the team for Saturday’s game in Charlotte. The captain will not play tonight, either, while Kevin Garnett is likely to join him with another day off of his own. With rookie guard Gabe Pruitt back from the D-League, there is a chance Rajon Rondo gets a night of rest as well. For sentimental reasons to the fans of Milwaukee, it is expected that Ray Allen will be the only "big gun" on the court tonight for the green.
As for Milwaukee, their season has gone down the toilet once again. Not only do they hold the seventh-worst record in the league, they have also lost 14 of their last 18 games and have battled the injury bug in recent months. One of which is Yi Jianlian, who Danny Ainge admitted likely would have been Boston’s selection had they not traded the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft. The good part about Milwaukee’s injury woes is that they’ve gotten a chance to get a longer look at rookie guard Ramon Sessions. In four games this month playing over 32 minutes per outing, the second round pick out of Nevada has held averages of 7.8 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. Within that four-game span, he even managed to knock down a game-winning perimeter jumper from the left baseline in Washington. Milwaukee doesn’t have a whole lot going for them right now, but Sessions looks to be a second round steal if he can keep this up.
This may be a rough one to watch, but remember that there are just five more regular season games to go after this.
C Kendrick Perkins / Andrew Bogut
PF Leon Powe / Charlie Villanueva
SF James Posey / Desmond Mason
SG Ray Allen / Michael Redd
PG Rajon Rondo / Ramon Sessions
Key Matchup: Ray Allen vs. Michael Redd
These are two of the best shooters we have in today’s game. Redd may have an unorthodox type of release compared to Allen’s picture perfect form, but the fact of the matter is that you cannot give either of these guys a centimeter of space when defending them out on the perimeter. While most of us would love to see a well-played and hard-fought game, I don’t think many people would fuss about a shootout between these two three-point assassins.
Celtics X-Factor: Valuable Minutes for Role Players
This game is about getting valuable in-game minutes for our role players so that they are comfortable with one another come playoff time. We want to see Leon Powe continue to play well, Eddie House to shoot well, Sam Cassell get valuable minutes with the second unit, P.J. Brown get his feet wet, Tony Allen gain some confidence, and possibly see the rookies get a little run. Glen Davis’ minutes have been sporadic all year long, but with Garnett out, there is plenty of room for him (heh) to grab some extra minutes. Gabe Pruitt has also returned from his third and final stint with the Utah Flash of the NBDL, and he could see a little action as well.
BOS – Scot Pollard (torn tendon in left ankle – out for season)
MIL – Mo Williams (abdominal strain - doubtful)
MIL – Yi Jianlian (sprained left knee - out)
MIL – Charlie Bell (sprained right knee - out)
MIL – Jake Voskuhl (sprained left ankle – doubtful)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Contain Redd
- Attack the Rim
- Play Hard
- Limit Turnovers