The Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks in a rematch of last year’s Conference Semifinals when the Bucks eliminated the Celtics in 5 games. The Buck are pretty much the same with just a couple of substitutions while the Celtics are almost a different team.
This is the first of 3 matchups this season and the only game in Boston. They will meet again on January 16 and March 12, both in Milwaukee. Both teams are 2-1 on the season so far. The Bucks won the series 2-1 last season. The Celtics lead the series all time 109-104.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the focus of the Bucks’ attack and he is very dominant. He draws so much attention that often their 3 point shooters are wide open. The Bucks have attempted 138 threes in their first 3 games for 150 points. They shot 33% from the arc in their first two games but shot 45% in their most recent game against Cleveland.
The Bucks have no players listed on the injury report. For the Celtics, Romeo Langford was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice and is not on the injury report this morning so we may get to see his NBA debut in this game. Daniel Theis, who missed the last game with an ankle sprain, is questionable for this game. Enes Kanter has been ruled out.
I’m going to guess that Robert Williams starts at center once again. However, if Theis is healthy, he may get the start. If Theis is out, Vincent Poirier should get more minutes in this game. After seeing the way Grant Williams has played in the past 2 games, expect to see him get more minutes also.
Probable Celtics Starters
Romeo Langford (knee) probable
Daniel Theis (ankle) questionable
Enes Kanter (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Bucks Starters
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
This has to be the key matchup although expect to see more than just Tatum guarding him. Giannis is averaging 24.3points, 13.3 rebounds, and 9 assists per game. He is shooting only 16.7% from beyond the arc, so it might be a good strategy to try to make him shoot from there. One player won’t be able to slow Antetokounmpo down so we should see some double teams and other players thrown at him to try to slow him down. However, in their loss to the Heat, Antetokounmpo played well with 29 points and 17 rebounds but the rest of his supporting cast, other than Middleton, played poorly. Perhaps they should worry more about everyone else and let Giannis get his. Hopefully in this game Tatum can find his offense and be more efficient.
Gordon Hayward vs Khris Middleton
Middleton is a star and can score in bunches if not defended well. He is averaging 19.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 22.7 assists. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Hayward will need to stick with him both inside and out.
Kemba Walker vs Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe is averaging 11.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Like Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe has been struggling from the outside, shooting just 20% from beyond the arc. He is shooting just 36% from the field. He is a good defender, however and so it may be hard for Kemba to get his shot off in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins championships and defense wins games. The Celtics are 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 100.0 while the Bucks are 14th with a defensive rating of 105.0. The Bucks are shooting 47% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc, while the Celtics are shooting just 40% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. The Celtics must play tough in your face defense, especially on the perimeter for the entire 48 minutes if they want to win.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and when the Celtics put out the extra effort on the boards, it usually carries through to the rest of their game. The Bucks have not been a good offensive rebounding team, pulling down just 6.3 offensive rebounds compared to 14.7 for the Celtics. The Celtics are 4th in the league with 17.0 second chance points while the bucks are 26th with just 10.7 second chance points. The Celtics must continue to crash the glass as a team and give extra effort on the boards in this game.
Move the Ball - When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, they are tough to beat. When the Celtics dribble too much and play hero ball, it usually ends badly. They have to play team ball and trust each other and make the extra pass to find the open man.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have started rather slowly in their last 2 games and then they came on strong toward the end. In the first game, they stuck with the Sixers through most of the game but faded at the end. They need to come out strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Officiating - The style of officiating can affect the outcome of a game. They don’t even have to favor one team over the other. When officials call every little bit of contact, the Celtics seem to struggle. When the refs let them play, the Celtics play much better. Hopefully the refs call it fairly and let both teams play. Mark Davis is the lead referee in this game and in an LA Times survey in 2016, players and coaches voted him one of the worst referees in the league so he may very well be an X-factor.
Home Game - The Celtics are back at home for their second game in front of the Celtics fans. I expect the Garden to be loud once again. The Celtics should get a boost from the crowd and the friendly confines of their home court. The Celtics need to make home court work for them and come out determined to give their fans a win. It would be great to make teams fear playing in the Garden once again.