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Game Thread: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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Eastern conference leading Milwaukee Bucks feature in Thursday night nationally televised playoff rematch against the Boston Celtics.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The undefeated (7-0) Milwaukee Bucks return to Boston’s TD Garden and the scene of last April’s Game 7 decider. The Bucks will come into tonight a confident team, their current win streak includes some impressive victories against the best of the Eastern conference, including the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers to start the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed the Bucks Monday night victory over the Raptors returns and so far he has been the Bucks’ leading scorer at 25ppg and also the league’s 4th best rebounder at 14.2rpg.

Khris Middleton has started the season right where he left off in last season’s playoffs, tallying 20.7ppg while shooting a blistering 54% from three point territory. This Bucks team leads the league in 3 pointers made (109) and the Celtics perimeter defense will be put to the test tonight as even the Bucks starting Center Brook Lopez has a green light beyond the arc.

The early season schedule has been kind to the Bucks so far, and tonight’s game represents only the third road game for them to start the season. With new head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks are playing a balanced unselfish style of team basketball, and they lead the league in NET rating at 14.8. As you can see in the chart below, the Bucks are 6th in league wide offensive rating at 113.1 and 2nd defensively behind only the Celtics at 98.2.

Graph Courtesy @YoungNBA
https://twitter.com/youngnba

It will be interesting to see what adjustments Coach Brad Stevens makes to counter the Bucks new style of play under Coach Buldenholzer. Like the Celtics, the Bucks have a deep bench who plays hard and have added PF Ersan Ilyasova, returning for his second stint as a Buck.

For the Celtics, the team is finally showing cohesion after quite a few early season hiccups. Boston enters the game on their own 3 game win streak, behind the recent solid play of the bench, in particular Marcus Morris Sr. The C’s bench (BWA) has given the team a real lift recently so we will look to see if Mook can continue that form against a team whose length have historically given him troubles. Kyrie Irving who missed the entire playoffs last season, is coming into the game off the back of his best performance of the season which included 31 points, 5 assists, 5 boards whilst going 4-7 from behind the arc.

Brad Stevens has been getting a good spread of performances from a number of different players, however it is worth noting the injuries have started to creep into the fold and the Celtics will be be keeping tabs on a few players. Aron Baynes successfully returned for the Detroit game and a hamstring sprain, however now SG/SF Jaylen Brown is out tonight with a foot sprain despite going through pre-game shooting drills. As such look for Coach Stevens to utilise Aron Baynes starting at center to cover 7ft Brook Lopez and Al Horford to matchup against the Greek sensation in Giannis Antetokounmpo. German PF/C Daniel Theis is also sporting a boot for two weeks as he deals with a slight plantar fascia tear in his right foot, no timetable has been set for his return.

As far as Eastern conference litmus tests go, this is one of the best you can get.

Projected Starters

PG - Kyrie Irving – Eric Bledsoe

SG - Gordon Hayward – Malcolm Brogdon

SF - Jayson Tatum – Khris Middleton

PF - Al Horford – Giannis Antetokounmpo

C - Aron Baynes – Brook Lopez

Injuries

Boston - Daniel Theis (Foot), Jaylen Brown (Foot-questionable), Jabari Bird (Personal)

Milwaukee - Trevon Duval, D.J. Wilson, Donte DiVincenzo (questionable)

How to Watch

Time - 8:00 EST

TV - TNT