KYLE: After the latest injury blow to Kyrie Irving, what are the fans expectations for the Celtics for this series and the playoffs?
BILL: They’re fully invested in this rag tag team. Sure, they’ll be missing Kyrie, Hayward, Smart, and Theis, but Brad Stevens’ teams have always embraced their underdog rep. There’s excitement around the young guys--Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier--and the expectations are that they’ll respond to the pressures of the playoffs. The truth is, our side of the bracket sans Toronto, Cleveland, and Washington is wide open. It’s four young teams and one of them will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have been winning improbable game after improbable game all year. Why stop now? What has been the biggest difference between Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty and is there anything Prunty can do to keep his job into next season?
KYLE: Besides a scapegoat for Bucks Twitter and general positive demeanor, I think the biggest difference is the consistency of Prunty’s rotations compared to Kidd. Sometimes Kidd wouldn’t play certain players who had played well previously with one of his reason being “He didn’t win the lottery” With Prunty, you have an idea of which players are going to play along with minutes. While I believe that Prunty will have a chance to interview, I don’t foresee him getting the Head Coaching job on a permanent basis. The only way I see him keeping the job is if he pulls of a deep playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals. What are the keys for the Celtics to win?
BILL: Defense. The NBA has turned into a league that emphasizes switchability and small ball, but Milwaukee poses a unique problem because of their length. Against Golden State, you could live with Tatum switching onto Steph Curry or Jaylen Brown checking Draymond. With the Bucks, I see the Celtics packing in the paint more--maybe even running some zone defense that they’ve been successfully employing to close the regular season--and daring Milwaukee to beat them in the mid-range. If Boston can limit their restricted area FGA’s to the mid-20’s, they’ll have a good chance winning this series. How do you see Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova affecting the series?
KYLE: I think Milwaukee getting Brogdon and Delly back will be a big boost. For the last few months, Milwaukee has been very thin on the depth chart for PG. Eric Bledsoe was still healthy but when he was on the bench, Milwaukee either had Giannis as the primary ball handler (good in theory poor in execution) or Brandon Jennings (not great unless the opposition is G-League quality). Both Brogdon and Delly bring the team a capable point with Brogdon being able to get to the hoop while Delly can be more of a screener and spot-up shooter. What are the keys for the Bucks to win?
BILL: Effective point guard play. Stevens will do everything he can to neutralize Milwaukee’s length, but the Bucks’ depth at point guard is a problem. Rozier is a plus defender, but keeping Bledsoe from turning the corner is going to be difficult Brogdon can bully smaller guards like Shane Larkin and effectively invert the floor for slashers like Antetokounmpo and Middleton. Delly always keeps his dribble alive in the paint and is pretty clever around the rim. Any of those three can get it going and because of Boston’s lack of PG defenders, that’s a pressure point Prunty can exploit. Do you think the Bucks will key in defensively on any specific player on the Celtics?
KYLE: I’m not sure if it will be a specific player because of the schematics of Milwaukee’s defense. We have seen Milwaukee alternate between and aggressive blitzing scheme and more conservative switching. I can see Milwaukee trying to force Rozier, and Tatum into either a trap or switching a bigger defender on them. Depending on the personnel on the court the Bucks will at least try to keep the Celtics out of the paint. Besides Giannis, who is the biggest threat for Milwaukee and who is Boston’s x-factor?
BILL: For Milwaukee, it’s going to be Khris Middleton and it won’t even be on the offensive end. He’s a skilled scorer that can do it on all three levels, but if he and Tony Snell can keep Tatum and Brown in check, that could be huge dent in the Celtics’ scoring. For Boston, the x-factor could be Semi Ojeleye. Since the injury bug decimated the roster, the rookie has stepped up as a versatile defender off the bench. He’s found a lot of success guarding 4’s, particularly against Giannis. He’s found his stroke from behind the arc, but a handful of threes from him is gravy if he can play fifteen minutes a night of solid team D. I was the one Tyler Zeller fan in Boston. What’s your take on him? And since we’re talking about former players, what can Celtics fan expect from Greg Monroe in the clutch?
KYLE: Zeller came to the team with little fanfare, but he has been a very solid player for Milwaukee. He has been able to take all of Thon Maker’s minutes and has safely established the backup center role. He seems to have a good rapport with Giannis and Bledsoe on the pick and roll and gets to the right spots at the right time. Eric Nehm of ESPN Milwaukee had a great piece about it which you can read here. As for Greg Monroe, he is someone that can feast in the post against Henson and Zeller. With him coming off the bench I would expect Boston to dish it to him in the post and he can either try a post move, or kick out to another player at the three. What is your prediction for this series?
BILL: Celtics in 6. Every post season, Brad Stevens throws in some quirky adjustment that throws off the other team. Whether it was starting Gerald Green last year vs. the Bulls or plugging in Jonas Jerebko the year before against Atlanta, unsung players have blossomed out of their traditional roles and won playoff games. It’s going to be an ugly series with both teams going through shooting slumps, but in the end, the Bucks exit the playoffs and say goodbye to the Bradley Center in Game 6. What’s yours?
KYLE: While Milwaukee may have the more talented squad and more playoff experience, Boston does have the edge with Brad Stevens coaching. I feel like each game will be close and just depends on a couple shots that go in or a turnover and Boston has more composure than Milwaukee has shown. The Bucks haven’t played well in a while and maybe the intensity of the playoffs will change that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks were to win this series in 6 or 7 games, however I have been conditioned for the last 20ish years to never trust the Bucks so I will go with Celtics in 6.