The Milwaukee Bucks have struggled mightily as of late and now find themselves playing all but one of their final four games on the road, where they’ve only won nine games all season.
A second straight game without Khris Middleton went as expected, with the Bucks almost losing by 30 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks have lost two in a row, both games without Middleton, but honestly, even with Middleton they’ve had a rough go of it lately, only winning three of their last ten.
The Boston Celtics on the other hand, are almost the polar opposite. Jae Crowder is back, having played the last two games after returning from injury. The Celtics find themselves playing perhaps their best basketball of the season, winning seven of their last ten, including an improbable road win over the Golden State Warriors, (at least is seemed improbable until the Timberwolves did the same).
The Celtics have already punched their ticket for the postseason, but they still have a lot to play for. In the current Eastern Conference playoff standings, seeds three through six, (Atlanta, Boston, Miami and Charlotte), are only separated by one game. Losses by any of these teams down the stretch could take them right out of home court advantage in the first round.
This is the last chance for the Bucks to play spoiler as far as the playoff teams are concerned, but as the role of spoiler usually goes, it won’t be easy. Statistically, the Celtics have been an exemplary team this season. Right now, they are the sixth best rebounding team, the sixth best team in assists and have the fifth best offense in the league.
Defensively, they’re only slightly better than average, but this team works hard for coach Brad Stevens. A problem area for the Bucks will be in the mid to long range, as the Celtics are only allowing teams to convert on just over 38 percent of their shots from that area. The stout Celtics’ defense coupled with the Bucks allergy to shooting three pointers really chew up the Bucks floor spacing.
I think the only option for the Bucks is to attack the rim. Fortunately, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put his Stretch Armstrong game on full display lately and he’ll have to do the same against the Celtics on Friday.
Defensively, the Bucks have to get back in transition as the Celtics rank fifth in transition baskets. It’s no surprise that turnovers will have to be at a minimum, but also look out for long rebounds because the Celtics will take them and immediately push up court. Also, the Celtics love to use the handoff as a smart way to get shots up. To defend that the Bucks have to limit space between the screener and the shooter.
Road games have been an obvious issue for the Bucks this season, and I don’t think that Friday night is going to help heal that wound. I’d like to see both Giannis and Jabari Parker be aggressive in the execution of this game, but I still think the Celtics win easily.
Mike Helm: Celtics by 10
Adam McGee: Celtics by 17
Jordan Treske: Celtics by 10
Ti Windich: Celtics by 8
Season Leaderboard To Date (Record and Points Differential)
Mike Helm: (54-24) 770 points
Jordan Treske: (48-30) 859 points
Adam McGee: (46-32) 784 points
Ti Windisch: (45-33) 818 Points