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Boston Celtics (29-8) at Milwaukee Bucks (25-12) Game #38 1/11/24

The Celtics visit the Milwaukee Bucks as they look to win their second straight game.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Celtics visit the Milwaukee Bucks for the second of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 119-116 in Boston. They will meet a second time in Boston on March 20. They will meet once more in Milwaukee on April 9. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season. They won on Christmas Day in Boston and 1 game in Milwaukee. They lost one game in Milwaukee.

The Celtics remain first in the East. They are 4 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 5.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 7 games ahead of 4th place Indiana and 5th place New York, and they are 7.5 games ahead of 6th place Cleveland. The Celtics are 11-8 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 22-5 against Eastern Conference teams and are coming off a win in their last game.

The Bucks remain in 2nd place in the East. They are 4 games behind first place Boston. They are 1.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 3 games ahead of 4th place Indiana and 5th place New York, and 3.5 games ahead of 6th place Cleveland. The Bucks are 16-4 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 20-10 against Eastern Conference teams and they have lost their last 2 games.

The Celtics are playing in the 2nd of back to back games and had to travel after Wednesday’s game. They are 5-1 so far on the second night of back to back games. They are 1-0 when the games are Home/Road. They are also playing in their 5th game in 7 nights. The Celtics are 117-110 all time overall against the Bucks. They are 43-70 in games played in Milwaukee.

The Celtics won at home on Wednesday night and take on the Bucks on the road in this game. They will return home to host the Rockets before heading out on the road again to play in Toronto. They will then have home games against San Antonio and Denver. They will then take on Houston and Dallas on the road in back to back games and the Heat in Miami before settling in for a 7 game home stand.

The Bucks are playing in the 2nd of a 4 game home stand. They will play Golden State and Sacramento back to back to finish the home stand. After that, their schedule gets easier as they play Cleveland, and Detroit twice on the road before returning home to face Cleveland twice and New Orleans before heading out on a 5 game Western road trip.

The Celics should be almost at full strength for this game. I expect that Al Horford will sit out for rest on the second night of back to back games. I also expect Kristaps Porzingis to return for this game after sitting out Wednesday’s game. For the Bucks, Jae Crowder is out with a groin injury. Cameron Payne is questionable due to being in concussion protocol.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Al Horford (rest) questionable

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Bucks Starters

Bucks Reserves
Thanasis Antetokounmpo
MarJon Beauchamp
Pat Connaughton
AJ Green
Andre Jackson, Jr
Chris Livingston
Robin Lopez
Bobby Portis, Jr

Two Way Players
TyTy Washington, Jr

Injuries/Out
Jae Crowder (groin) out
Cameron Payne (concussion) questionable

Head Coach
Adrian Griffin

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ best player and possibly the league’s best player. He is averaging 31.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.3 assists per game. He is shooting 60.7% from the field but just 23.8% from beyond the arc. In the previous game against the Celtics, he finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. The Celtics held him to 35% from the field and no 3 pointers. You can’t stop Giannis, but you can try to slow him down.

Jrue Holiday vs Damian Lillard
Lillard is averaging 25.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 42.8% from the field and 35.2% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, Lillard finished with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He shot 46% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to play Lillard tightly on defense to limit his production since he is the biggest threat other than Antetokounmpo. Hopefully playing his former team will give Holiday added incentive to play well to beat them.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Khris Middleton
Middleton is averaging 14.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. He is shooting 49% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Middleton always seems to get up for Celtics games and is a verified Celtics killer. In the first game against the Celtics, Middleton finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. He shot 29% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown has been playing very well in recent games and the Celtics will need him to continue that in this game.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the biggest key to winning. Defense really does win championships. The Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 110.4. The Bucks are 22nd with a defensive rating of 116.3. The Celtics must work harder than the Bucks on defense and keep their focus on the defensive end so as not to allow any easy baskets for the Bucks.

Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding is always a big key to winning. The key to rebounding is effort and focus. When the Celtics increase their rebounding effort, it usually improves their play in other areas as well. The Bucks are 12th with 44.1 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 1st with 47.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics have to fight hard to beat the Bucks to rebounds.

Stay Focused - A lack of focus can explain a lot of the Celtics problems when they struggle. At times, the Celtics lose focus and struggle to hit shots that they would usually make. They sometimes take questionable shots, miss some layups and stopped moving the ball, which can also be attributed to a lack of focus. They also miss free throws in games where they lack focus. When they lose focus on offense, they also lose focus on defense and miss assignments and allow their opponent open shots on the perimeter and easy shots inside. They must stay focused on playing the right way.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in order to have a chance to beat the Bucks. They have to be more aggressive in going for loose balls and in crashing the boards. They have to be more aggressive on defense and they have to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settling for 3’s if they aren’t falling. Often the more aggressive team will get more calls. They can’t allow the Bucks to play harder than them.

X-Factors
Home Court and Fatigue - The Bucks are a very good home team, going 16-4 at home so far this season. The Celtics can’t allow the distractions of playing on the road to take away their focus on playing the game. The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games after a tough overtime game against the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Travel and back to back games could affect the play of the Celtics.

Officiating - The officiating can always be an x-factor. Some referees call the game tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team and others call it evenly. Some refs just seem to have an agenda that doesn’t fit the play on the court. And sometimes the refs are simply atrocious (see Pacers game). Giannis seems to always get more than his share of calls as he plows through players on his way to the hoop, leaving bodies in his wake. The Celtics have to play through however the refs call the game, whether it is tight or they let them play or they make terrible calls. The Celtics can’t allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on the game.

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