The Celtics return to the Garden with the series tied 2-2. The Celtics lost Game 3 in a blow out and didn’t offer much resistance to the Bucks who played with much more intensity and a strong defense on their home court. In Game 4, the Bucks built a 20 point lead but the Celtics fought back to take the lead late in the 4th but to fall to the Bucks by 2 points at the end.
The Celtics need to keep the mindset they had in the second half of Game 4 going into Game 5. The Celtics have to find their defense that has been missing since the playoffs started and they have to play as a team and work together on both ends of the court. They have to play smart and limit their turnovers as they did in the first two games.
The Bucks will likely keep the same starters as they did in games 3 and 4 since they were effective and gave the Bucks wins. John Henson is once again listed as out. The way they have been playing since he went down, they may just be keeping him out, even if his back is feeling better.
The Celtics once again have Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis listed as out. But Marcus Smart has been cleared medically to play in this game. According to Brad Stevens he will be a game time decision, depending on how he feels after shoot around. I don’t see any way he is going to say he doesn’t feel up to playing. He will bring a big boost to the Celtics defense and their intensity.
The Celtics need to dig deep and get a win in this game and then close it out in 6. The 76ers lead their series with the Heat 3-1, going back to Philadelphia for Game 5, and the winner of that series will be the next opponent for the winner of this series. Both Toronto/Washington and Cleveland/Indiana series are tied 2-2.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Marcus Smart (thumb) game time decision
Probable Bucks Starters
John Henson (back) out
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
This has been the key matchup in each game so far and it remains key in this game as well. 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. In Game 4, he had 27 points on 60% shooting with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Al 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. In game 4, Middleton had 23 points, shooting 57% from the field and 60% from 3. It goes without saying that the Celtics need to do a better job defending Middleton if they hope to a win in this game.
Terry Rozier vs Eric Bledsoe
Rozier clearly outplayed Bledsoe in Games 1 and 2 and Terry seemed to be in his head after that game. But 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. They somewhat evened out in Game 4 with Rozier scoring 10 points on 3-12 shooting with 5 rebounds, 8 assists and only 1 turnover. Bledsoe finished with 9 points, 1 rebound and 5 assists with just 1 turnover. Terry once again needs to win this matchup handily for the Celtics to excel.
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. In Game 4, it was even worse with the Bucks reserves putting up 31 points while the Celtics reserves only managed 15 points with 13 of them from Marcus Morris and 2 from Semi Ojeleye. The Bucks bench was a +37 in Game 4 while the Celtics bench was a -30. The Celtics reserves simply must contribute more if the Celtics want to win this game. They will get a huge boost with the return of Marcus Smart.
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 54% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc for the series. The Celtics are capable of playing much better on the defensive end and 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 Games 3 and 4, the Bucks were the team playing tough defense and the Celtics have to be the better team on defense if they want to win Game 5 and the series. Defense is THE key.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding will be key for the Celtics. So far, the Celtics have done a good job on the boards. The Celtics are averaging 42.8 rebounds for the series, compared to 38.2 for the Bucks. 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 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 the Bucks were the more aggressive team in games 3 and 4. The Celtics have to get back to being 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 Bucks are averaging 23.2 assists per game vs 20.8 assists for the Bucks. 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. The Celtics need to move the ball and not lapse into hero ball and they must make more careful passes while playing unselfishly.
Play 48 Minutes - In the two games in Milwaukee, especially in Game 4, the Celtics played well during stretches but they also had a time in the second quarter when they played very poorly on both ends of the court. The Celtics can’t afford to have a let down during games in the playoffs. They must play hard and play smart from the opening tip until the final buzzer. They can’t depend on the home crowd or home court to carry them. They have to do their part and play well from start to finish.
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. In Game 4, the Bucks got out to a big lead, but Brad was able to make the adjustments to get the Celtics back into the game. Brad needs to have the Celtics playing their hardest and continue to make adjustments to counter those made by the Bucks.
Home Court Advantage - Teams play all season to have home court advantage in the playoffs. During the season, the Celtics actually had a better road record (28-13) than home record (27-14). The Bucks, however, were a much better team at home (25-16) than on the road (19-22). The Celtics will depend on the Garden crowd to be loud and give them a boost while also rattling the Bucks. So far, home court has been big for both teams and the Celtics need to come out determined to defend their home court.
Marcus Smart - After being listed as out for the past 6 weeks after having thumb surgery, Marcus Smart was listed as questionable for this game. He had targeted Game 6 on Thursday but he will be evaluated in New York on Tuesday morning and if he is cleared, which he seems fairly sure he will be, and if there is any way he can get to Boston for the game, I expect him to play. His presence will give the Celtics a boost and may be just what they need to get their defense back on track.
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. After Game 4, Marcus Morris once again was upset with the refs, who he said were targeting him. The officials also missed a couple of big calls in the final minutes of Game 4 that could have cost the Celtics the game. Hopefully the refs in this game call it fairly and let them play.
The lead official, Ken Mauer, can be good or bad depending on the game. As with most of the refs in the playoffs, he isn’t swayed by the crowd. However, Mauer is known to carry grudges and often calls games with an agenda. He is quick to call technicals and one time he called 5 techs in 10 seconds in a Wolves game. Home teams win 52.4% of the time when he calls the game. He averages 39.4 foul calls per game and 49.7% of those calls go against the home team.