The Celtics and Bucks meet for the 2nd time in 3 days as they play the 3rd and final game in the series this season. The Celtics won the first game 122-121 after the Celtics blew a 17 point lead and Jayson Tatum hit a game winner at the buzzer. In Wednesday’s game, The Bucks almost blew a 25 point lead as the Daniel Theis missed a 3 pointer at the buzzer to give the Bucks a 121-119 win.
The Celtics are 8th in the East. They are 10.5 games behind the first place 76ers. They are half a game behind Miami (7) and 1 game behind Atlanta (6). They are a game and a half behind 4th place Charlotte and 5th place New York. They are just a half a game ahead of 9th place Indiana. The Celtics are 8-16 on the road and have lost 2 straight games and 5 of their last 6. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The Bucks are 2nd in the East. They are 2 games behind first place Philadelphia. They are tied with the Nets but hold the tie breaker that puts the Nets in 3rd place. They are 7 games ahead of 4th place Charlotte. They are 18-5 at home and 9-1 in their last 10. They have the NBA’s longest active win streak with 8 straight wins.
The Celtics come into this game short handed as they made trades at the deadline that sent Jeff Teague, Javonte Green and Daniel Theis out in return for Evan Fournier, Moritz Wagner, and Luke Kornet. Theis will be missed as the starting center as will Green and Teague off the bench.
Fournier won’t be with the team in time for this one but may join the team for Saturday’s game in OKC . I’m going to guess that Robert Williams will start and we will see some Tacko at back up or possibly small ball with Grant Williams at center. Both Kornet and Wagner will likely be in Milwaukee but it’s not certain if either will play since they haven’t had a practice or even a shoot around with the team.
Along with the new players likely missing the game, Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford are still out due to covid and Semi Ojeleye will miss this one with a hip injury he suffered in Wednesday’s game. For the Bucks, Rodions Kurucs is out with a strained oblique. PJ Tucker is doubtful with a calf injury he suffered in Wednesday’s game. and Bryn Forbes is probable with a toe injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Semi Ojeleye (hip) out
Evan Fournier (trade) out
Moritz Wagner (trade) possible
Luke Kornet (trade) possible
Probable Bucks Starters
Bryn Forbes (toe) probable
Rodion Kurucs (oblique) out
PJ Tucker (calf) doubtful
Jayson Tatum vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 6.4 assists but in Wednesday’s game, he scored just 13 points to go along with 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Tatum also scored below his average with 18 points to go with 8 rebounds, 5 assissts, 1 steal and 2 blocks. This is still a key matchup and hopefully the Celtics can limit Antetokounmpo once again in this game. Tatum has scored below his average in 3 straight games and it would be great if he can get back on track in this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton always seems to have a big game against the Celtics and that includes Wednesday’s game. He is averaging 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He is shooting 49% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. He had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the first game between these teams and on Wednesday he had 27 points and 13 rebounds. Brown needs to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Kemba Walker vs Jrue Holiday
Holiday gives the Bucks another threat to score and he had a big game against the Celtics in their first meeting with 25 points and 6 rebounds but was held to just 13 points in Wednesday’s game. He is averaging 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He is shooting 49% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Kemba put up 23 points with 6 assists on Wednesday and the Celtics need another big game from him in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the most important key to winning. The Bucks are first in the league, averaging 120 points per game while the Celtics are 18th, averaging 112.2 points per game. The Bucks are 3rd in FG% and 4th in 3 point percentage. The Celtics won’t win a shoot out with the Bucks and so have to increase their defensive intensity. They must work at getting stops if they hope to win this game.
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 Celtics were out-rebounded 46-38 on Wednesday. The Celtics must increase their effort to crash the glass as a team and beat the Bucks to rebounds. The Bucks get 13.7 second chance points per game and the Celtics can limit that if they work harder on the boards.
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. The Bucks move the ball very well and average 26.0 assists per game. The Celtics average just 22.9 assist. They have to play team ball and trust each other and make the extra pass to find the open man. They also need to run and get up the court before the Bucks defense gets set up so as to get some easy baskets.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics need consistent effort from start to finish. They have to come out strong and not dig themselves a hole that they have to work the rest of the game to try to get out of as they did on Wednesday. They proved in that run they made to erase the 25 point deficit that they can play well and hang with the Bucks. They need to play that way for 48 minutes and not just for a quarter or two.
Fatigue - The Celtics are playing their third straight road game and their 4th game in 6 nights. Players are likely to be tired and especially with playing short handed, will they have enough to stay with the Bucks for 48 minutes or will they run out of steam down the stretch?
Officiating - Every officiating crew calls games differently. Some call it tight and some let them play. Some have a bias against certain teams and certain players. Some favor the home team while others do not. The Celtics have to adjust to how this game is being called by the crew and not allow officiating to take away their focus.