The Bucks are similar to their namesake: they’re long and lean and quick for their size. It’s Milwaukee’s biggest strength and one that the Celtics’ can’t allow the Bucks to exploit in this first round match up.
Since the All Star break, the Bucks has boasted the 9th best offense in the league with a 108.9 OffRtg (by comparison, the Celtics scuffled through injuries to close out the year at 107.4.) It’s hard to argue against their talent on the offensive side of the ball. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a match up nightmare at 6’11. Khris Middleton is a polished scorer with range. Eric Bledsoe is just as much as an athletic freak as The Greek. And Jabari Parker has been consistent since his return from a second ACL tear last season.
Milwaukee plays like a pack of praying mantises. Their length across the board is unparalleled and they use it. Post All Star, they were third in the league in shots from the restricted area (31.2 FGA per game at 64.1%). They take the 5th fewest 3’s and the 8th most in the mid-range. That could be the key.
Remember Stan Van Gundy forming a *&%$# wall? That will be Boston’s defensive strategy in a nutshell. The Bucks don’t run a lot of pick-and-roll. They’ll rely heavily on perceived mismatches and hope that the Celtics will make mistakes double teaming and over helping. My prediction is that they won’t. Here’s Aron Baynes on facing Giannis:
Aron Baynes on the challenge of defending Giannis in postseason: “It's going to be a team effort. It's not one man's job. It's four or five men on a string. ... He's very talented and he's a great player so we're going to have to lock in and do a job collectively on him.” pic.twitter.com/lZ693x08ZJ— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 12, 2018
In some respect, this is not the kind of team the Celtics are built to defend. In a league transitioning to small ball and emphasizing switchability with the Golden State Warriors defending the Larry O’Brien, Milwaukee is unique with their size. No matter who guards Milwaukee’s playmakers, they’ll most likely be undersized. Look for Boston to pack the paint to prevent penetration.
We saw a lot of this last week in Milwaukee when the Celtics lost a close game 106-102 without Terry Rozier. The Celtics were able to defend the arc (5-for-20) but gave up a whopping 27-of-38 under the rim. That just won’t cut it in the playoffs.
You can see Boston’s commitment to eliminating paint touches. There’s always one or two players in the key and help defenders tagging cutters and dribble drives to dissuade them from penetrating.
Two players to worry about are Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova. Both have recently returned from injury and in the past, they’ve hurt the Celtics. They’re crafty at finding seams and collapsing defenses and if they can consistently get the ball to Antetokounmpo or Middleton with a head of steam, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on Boston’s D.
It’s elementary, but for the Celtics to win this series, they need to force bad shots. Milwaukee is more than willing to take long-2’s if you let them. It’s cheesy, but if Boston can flash their proverbial headlights whenever the Bucks are trying to get to the rim and freeze them in the mid-range, they should be able to get out of the first round.