It is time, once again, to make our series predictions. For the record, looking back to the last round, Drew Doxy was the only one that correctly predicted a Celtics sweep. Who will be the closest in this round?
Celtics in Six - The Celtics will be up against the best team in regular season basketball and the likely MVP, in Giannis Antetokounmpo. By conventional metrics, a 49 win team shouldn’t have much of a shot against juggernaut like the one the bucks have put together. However, the addition of a “finally looking maybe healthy” Gordon Hayward is a reason for optimism and a case could be made that Horford is one of best fits in the league to try to slow down Giannis. No homecourt hurts the Celtics, but I think they will get one of the first two in a matchup where last year the home team held serve.
Celtics in 7. I am going to keep on drinking the kool-aid with this team. The regular season is over and so are the concerns that followed this team. The Celtics looked like they finally came together each player knowing their role. I think it will be a close series all the way through, and since home court doesn’t matter much for the Bucks, the Celtics will come in there and take game 7 on the road with Kyrie Irving shooting lights out to victory.
I’m going with the cop-out Celtics in 7 but the journey on how we get there should be the fun part. Celtics win game 1, thus totally giving the Bucks flashbacks to losing last year. The Celtics get overconfident and lose the next two so everyone starts writing Celtics obituaries. Celtics win the next two and Bill Simmons declares Semi Ojeleye untouchable in Anthony Davis talks. Giannis goes for 55 in game 6 but Gordon Hayward goes for 30 and 7 assists in game 7. Celtics survive and advance.
My heart says Celtics in six. My head says Bucks in seven. Boston can absolute win this series, but they can’t be inconsistent, especially with effort. If they bring it game to game, they can beat Milwaukee. But the Bucks are a great team, they have the potential MVP and they have homecourt advantage. So, Milwaukee probably wins. But in matters of the heart and head, it’s way more fun to trust the heart. Celtics in six.
I’m going to have to be That Guy in this discussion: I’m taking the Bucks in six. The Celtics showed a lot of encouraging signs in sweeping the Pacers in the first round, but they still showed some of the cracks we’ve been seeing all season: inconsistent effort, offensive dry spells, occasional defensive lapses. They can’t afford to struggle with these issues against this remarkably dominant Milwaukee squad and the MVP favorite, Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’ll also have to do so without home court advantage, and with Marcus Smart sidelined for at least a portion of the series. This is very much an uphill climb.
That said, you can see the framework of a Boston upset in this series. Kyrie Irving is exactly the guy you want if you need to win a series on the road, Al Horford is an invaluable matchup piece against Antetokounmpo and Gordon Hayward finally looks to be back to his All-Star form of old. The Celtics’ 49-win regular season is a little deceiving -- they’re not your average four seed, by any stretch. Still, while I’d be very happy to be proven wrong, I think this is Milwaukee’s series to lose.
I’ll take Bucks in seven. The Celtics have the pieces to pull off an upset, but they haven’t shown enough consistency to engender much belief that they’ll be able to. Milwaukee has been utterly dominant this year, and Giannis is a terrifying problem to confront. Boston can win this series, but all the data from this entire year suggests they won’t.
Celtics in 6. This Milwaukee Bucks team is as great as they’ve ever been. Their two All-Stars are playing well, they unlocked their stretch-5 in Brook Lopez, Sterling Brown has emerged for them, their defense is great and they have a (1) Giannis Antetokoumpo. None of that sways my decision in the slightest. Better coaching and a little more shooting made a big difference from last year to this year for Milwaukee, but I’m not sure it outweighs adding a healthy Kyrie Irving along with what appears to be a 75% Gordon Hayward in addition to more experience for Brown and Tatum. The Cs have been up and down this season, but I’m confident that the Irving-Horford pick-and-roll is unstoppable against this Bucks team. They’ll all be tight games, but Irving and Hayward’s clutch genes will prevail 4 times out of 6.