All-Star weekend is in the books, and we finally have meaningful basketball games back in our lives. The Celtics get right back in action against the top seed in the Eastern Conference, traveling to Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
The Celtics came into the All-Star break with two impressive, short-handed wins without their own All-Star Kyrie Irving. With Kyrie back for this one, it will be important for the team continue to vibe and use this final stretch of games to better their standings in the East and most importantly find a rhythm for the playoffs.
For Milwaukee, they also are on their own two-game win streak taking down the Bulls and Pacers before the break. The Bucks have been running on all cylinders this season as new head coach Mike Budenholzer has found the perfect formula for this roster. He stretched out center Brook Lopez to take more threes and spaced the floor more to let Giannis take over and be in MVP contention. Also, to make their lineups even more scary, the Bucks added Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline from New Orleans as another big man that can stretch the floor and shoot threes. Milwaukee is primed to be a big time contender in the East.
These two teams have played twice so far this season with both teams taking a game in Boston. Now, the (season) series shifts to Milwaukee for Game 3. Could that possibly be foreshadowing to the Eastern Conference Finals? Maybe not in reference to home court advantage as the Celtics still need to make up some ground on the Bucks, but with these two teams being at the top of the conference this game tonight will be a good preview for the competition we’ll see in the playoffs this season.
As for the game tonight, the key for the Celtics will be all about the three ball. The Bucks, strangely enough in today’s NBA, sell out on protecting the rim. This defense goes against this spray-and-pray mindset that most teams try and implement on the offensive side of the ball, but it doesn’t change the Bucks’ mindset. They lead the league in giving up three-point attempts at 35.5 opponent three-pointers a game. This will be in contrast to the Celtics who are shooting the fourth-most threes a game at 35.3 threes a game. So no matter what you think of the Bucks strategy of giving up threes to protect the rim, it seems to be working.
The injury situation for the Celtics looks bleak as they will be missing Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes in tonight’s contest. Baynes is still dealing with his foot injury that bothered him before the All-Star break as well. Honestly, even if he was healthy, he would not see many minutes in this type of match-up with Lopez always stretching out behind the arc where Baynes is much more uncomfortable as a defender. Horford will do just fine against Lopez for most of this one.
As for Hayward, his injury came as a bit of a shock when the news came out yesterday that he rolled his ankle in practice. He was only questionable at first, but with the Celtics calling up R.J. Hunter from the G-League, Hayward looks to be a scratch tonight. The positive side of this is that it was not the ankle he injured before. The injury was said not to be serious, but given Hayward’s recent injury history, they want to be very cautious. It is a shame because Hayward was really coming into form before the break, showing signs of looking like his normal self.
Above all else, this is a statement game for both teams. The Eastern Conference is going to be a dog fight this season, and any of those top four teams could be facing off in the Eastern Conference Finals. It will be great to have basketball back in our lives. Make the threes that the Bucks give up so frequently, and the Celtics will have a good shot on the road tonight.
PG – Kyrie Irving – Eric Bledsoe
SG – Marcus Smart – Malcolm Brogdon
SF – Jayson Tatum – Khris Middleton
PF – Marcus Morris Sr. – Giannis Antetokounmpo
C – Al Horford – Brook Lopez
Boston – Gordon Hayward (Doubtful, Ankle); Aron Baynes (Out, Foot)
Milwaukee – Nikola MIrotic Jones (Questionable, Calf); Donte DiVincenzo (Out, Heel)
How To Watch
Time – 8:00 EST
TV – TNT; NBC Sports Boston