The Celtics and Bucks meet for the 2nd of 4 games this season. The first meeting was the day after the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to the gruesome injury and the Celtics were playing in back to back games. They just didn't have enough to overcome the Greek Freak and company. The Bucks won that game 108-100. They will meet again on December 4th in Boston and on April 3 in Milwaukee.
The Celtics have had time to regroup somewhat and try to gain some cohesiveness to the team after losing Hayward. Marcus Morris still has not played for the Celtics and has targeted the October 30th game vs the Spurs for his return. Marcus Smart has missed the last two games after rolling both ankles in the first game against the Bucks. He participated in the Celtics' shoot around and is hoping to play in this game. He is considered a game time decision. If Smart can play, it’s possible that he will return to the starting lineup. (Irving, Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford).
The Bucks three wins have been against the Celtics, the Blazers and the Hornets. Their lone loss was at home to the Cavaliers. Thirteen players have returned this season from the Bucks team that won 42 games last season and was the 6th seed in the East. They are mostly healthy, with just Jabari Parker out as he rehabs from a torn ACL. He is targeting February for a return.
Tonight, the Bucks will revisit their past as they play at their legendary former home, the Milwaukee Arena, which was better known as the MECCA. This game is part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary celebration and will also feature throwback jerseys reminiscent of the franchise’s uniforms of the 1970's. The MECCA was home to five postseason series between the Bucks and Celtics. Boston won four of those series.
The game will be played on a replica design of Robert Indiana’s iconic MECCA floor. It is, however a brand new court made by the same company that made the TD Garden court. Players have voiced reservations about the replica court, however. Bucks players were concerned that it was too bright and might cause some spacial problems. Kyrie Irving was concerned that it doesn't have the same feel as the courts that he is used to playing on and might cause injuries. Kyrie said that he took 3 steps on the court and realized that the replica court is not the same NBA court he's used to playing on. Whether it’s his imagination or not, it will be interesting to see how this game goes.
Probable Celtics Starters
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (ankles) day to day
Probable Bucks Starters
Jabari Parker (knee) out
Gary Payton II
Kyrie Irving vs Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon, last year's surprise Rookie of the Year, is averaging 16.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. In the first game against the Celtics he had 19 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists. Kyrie's stats from the first game are close to Brogden's with 17 points, 4 rebounds 3 assists and 3 steals. For the year, Kyrie is averaging 20 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6 assists. He has had some time to get more acquainted with his new teammates and hopefully he will win the matchup with the Bucks' second year player.
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
"The Greek Freak" is a tough cover for anyone and Celtics' veteran Al Horford will get the job of trying to slow Antetokounmpo down. Horford is coming off a big game against the Knicks where he played excellent defense on Kristaps Porzingis holding him to just 12 points. Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 36.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, will be an even tougher cover for him. Hopefully Al is up to the task.
Jayson Tatum vs Khris Middleton
Both players are coming off 20+ point games and will be looking to continue the momentum in this one. Both players are good defenders and will look to make it difficult for the other to have a big game in this one. Middleton is averaging 15.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while Tatum is averaging 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. Another early test for the Celtics rookie.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have been playing good defense so far this season, in spite of having to work in 11 new players. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 97.4, good for 7th in the league. The Bucks' defensive rating is 105.8, which is 19th. If the Celtics continue to play tough team defense, they have a good chance to win this game.
Move the Ball - The Celtics have shown some very good ball movement at times and at other times, the ball seems to stick and players try to do too much. When the ball sticks and when players try to do too much themselves, it rarely ends well. In their win over the Knicks on Tuesday, the ball moved very well and they were able to find the open man. They have to continue that in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball. The Celtics struggled to rebound last season but have looked much better on the boards in the preseason. It takes effort to rebound and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to get rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of their game. The Celtics are 9th in the league with 46.3 rebounds per game while the Bucks, in spite of having Antetounmpo attacking the glass, are last with just 37.8 rebounds per game. If the Celtics continue to crash the glass as a team, they give themselves a much better chance to get a win.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and on defense and going to the basket and grabbing rebounds. The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls also. They need to be the team that wants it more for all 48 minutes. No let up.
Continuity - The Celtics have just 4 players returning from last season and one of those 4 players has been out with an ankle sprain. On the other hand, the Bucks have 13 players returning from last year's team. The Celtics also had to refigure their sets after losing Gordon Hayward in the first game. Hopefully, the Celtics are getting it together and finding their chemistry.
Road Game - The Celtics are on the road and will need to block out the hostile crowd and focus on playing Celtic basketball. The Celtics are a young team and typically, young players struggle on the road. The Celtics' young players so far have shown maturity beyond their years and hopefully that continues as they hit the road for this game.