The Celtics look to bounce back after their 116-92 blowout loss in Game 3. The Bucks came out with energy and purpose right from the tip and outscored the Celtics 58-35 in the first half. The Celtics looked sluggish and were a step behind the entire game. At one point, they cut the deficit to 14 points but they couldn’t pull any closer.
With John Henson out, Joe Prunty started Tyler Zeller at center in Henson’s place. He also moved Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup in place of Tony Snell. This lineup came out strong to open the game and the Celtics never had an answer for them. But it wasn’t just the new starting lineup that buried the Celtics. Thon Maker and Jabari Parker who weren’t a factor in the first two games came up big off the bench for the Bucks.
John Henson is once again listed as doubtful with back soreness for this game. I am thinking that the Bucks will go with the same starters as they did in Game 3 since it worked out so well for them. Even if Henson is able to play, I can see the Bucks sticking with the same starters since they were so successful in Game 3.
The Celtics are still missing Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart. There is some good news, however. Marcus Smart is with the team in Milwaukee and has been cleared for everything except live game action. He will be re-evaluated next week and may be available for the last 2 or 3 games in this series.
The Pelicans swept their series against the Trailblazers. Other than that series, and the Warriors who lead the Spurs 3-0, the other series are going at least 5 games. The Sixers lead the Heat 3-1. The Pacers lead the Cavs 2-1. The Raptors lead the Wizards 2-1. The Rockets lead the Wolves 2-1. The Jazz are up 2-1 vs the Thunder.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Marcus Smart (thumb) out
Probable Bucks Starters
John Henson (back) doubtful
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
Once again, this will be a key matchup. Antetokounmpo had 35 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in Game 1. He followed that up with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while shooting 75% from the field. He played just 27 minutes in Game 3 and finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks. Al has been great for the Celtics but even he couldn’t get going in game 3. He will need a big game on both ends of the court if they want to get a win in this one
Jayson Tatum vs Khris Middleton
In Game 1, Middleton had 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. He shot 60% from the field and 71% from beyond the arc. In game 2, Middleton finished with 25 points, shooting 71% from the field and 66% from beyond the arc. In Game 2, he finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists and shot 59% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. It goes without saying that the Celtics need to do a better job defending Middleton in this game.
Terry Rozier vs Eric Bledsoe
Rozier clearly outplayed Bledsoe in Games 1 and 2 and Terry clearly seemed to be in his head. In Game 3, that reversed with Bledsoe scoring 17 points on 62% shooting along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists with just 1 turnover. Rozier had just 9 points on 29% shooting with 2 rebounds and 9 assists. After not having a turnover in Games 1 and 2, Rozier turned the ball over 5 times in Game 3.
Celtics Bench vs Bucks Bench
The Celtics reserves scored 27 points to 23 points for the Bucks reserves in Game 1. In Game 2, the Celtics reserves put up 41 off the bench while the Bucks reserves scored 25 points. But, as with everything else, that changed with Game 3. The Bucks reserves contributed 48 points to just 30 points from the Celtics reserves in Game 3. The Celtics need to get more from their reserves in Game 4 both on offense and on defense in Game 4.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics led the league in defensive rating for the entire regular season. However, in this series, their defense has yet to show up. They have allowed the Bucks to shoot 48.2% from the field in the first game and 59.7% in the second game. In the third game, the Bucks shot 57% from the field and 49% from beyond the arc. If the Celtics want to win this series, they are going to have to tighten up their defense and get back to the team that had a 101.5 defensive rating in the regular season. In Game 3, the Bucks amped up their defense and that completely disrupted the Celtics. The Celtics have to be the better team on defense if they want to win Game 4 and the series.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding will be key for the Celtics. So far, the Celtics have done a good job on the boards. 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 barely out-rebounded the Bucks 45-43 in Game 1. Both teams had 38 rebounds in Game 2. In Game 3, the Celtics out rebounded the Bucks 45-37, but they didn’t defend and couldn’t hit their shots. The Celtics must continue to crash the glass as a team and give even more effort on the boards in this game.
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 Celtics were the more aggressive team in Games 1 and 2 but that changed in Game 3. The Bucks came out playing hard and out-played the Celtics on both ends of the court. They were the team that ran after loose balls and defended and played harder. The Celtics, on the other hand, looked sluggish and never quite got going. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and is more aggressive if they want to get a win in this game.
Move the Ball Carefully - When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, they are tough to beat. The Celtics had just 17 assists in Game 3 to 28 for the Bucks. The ball wasn’t moving and when it did, the Bucks were able to get steals and disrupt the passes. After turning the ball over 15 times to 20 for the Bucks in Game 1, and having 5 turnovers to 15 for the Bucks in Game 2, the Celtics had 16 turnovers to 9 for the Bucks in Game 3. They need to move the ball and make more careful passes while getting back to playing unselfishly.
Coaching - In Games 1 and 2, Brad was able to push all the right buttons and use the right strategies to win. In Game 3, it was Joe Prunty who was able to get his team to play harder and do all the right things while the Celtics just couldn’t get themselves going. Now it’s Brad’s turn to make the next move. Hopefully he can get the Celtics back on track and playing hard, especially on the defensive end.
On the Road - The Celtics were a good road team this season with a 23-18 record away from home. The Bucks were also pretty good at home with a 25-16 home record. The Celtics seemed to lose their focus and couldn’t hit their shots or keep the Bucks from hitting theirs. They need to stay focused on playing their game and not let the hostile environment distract them. The Bucks’ young players play much better at home and so the Celtics need to be ready for them with tougher defense.
Officiating - In Games 1 and 2, the officiating was pretty good with the refs letting them play and calling it fairly evenly. After Game 3, Marcus Morris said that he felt that the refs were targeting him and was fined $15,000 for it. When Al Horford was asked about the officiating, he laughed and said that if he gave away money, he wanted it to be to charity and asked if he said what he wanted to in Spanish, could he still be fined. Hopefully the officiating is better in this game.
Ed Malloy is the lead referee and, as with most refs, he can be good or bad. He’s not an overly homer ref with a home team win percentage of 53.1%. He usually isn’t a tyrant with the whistle and for the most part lets teams play, averaging 36.9 foul calls per game. At times he has been quick to call technicals. Hopefully the “good” Ed Malloy will show up for this one.