3 things to watch as the Milwaukee Bucks host stellar Boston Celtics

Dec 13, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton, Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – DECEMBER 25 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks did, in fact, rebound from a couple of losses in a row by demolishing the Chicago Bulls to wrap up the season series with a sweep. Tonight they wrap up their regular-season home schedule with a potentially very fun game against the Boston Celtics.

Coming into tonight, the Celtics are a half-game ahead of the Bucks for second place in the Eastern Conference after their win over the Bulls last night. The Celtics have won two of the three head-to-head meetings this season so a win for the Bucks would nullify the head-to-head tiebreaker and then come down to record against the conference, which is also within a half-game of each other. Seeding is fun, isn’t it?

Anyway, this is an important seeding game but with the Celtics coming off of a game last night, this might not be as interesting as we thought.

How will the Milwaukee Bucks crack the Boston Celtics’ league-best defense?

Let’s go in with the assumption that the Celtics play most of their key guys. Perhaps they’ll rest an older dude like Al Horford, who is a very key part of their defense, but with such a tight seeding race, they could choose to play all their guys.

Since the start of the new year, the Celtics have had the best defense by nearly four points per 100 possessions compared to the next best team. They’ve been stifling opponents with their switch-heavy defense and allowing Robert Williams to roam around on the backline to protect the rim.

Unfortunately for the Celtics (and for those of us who wanted to see how the Bucks matched up), Williams suffered a torn meniscus, underwent surgery, and will be out until at least the second round of the playoffs.

Since Williams’ injury, they have the 11th-best defensive rating at 111.4 and have gone 2-2 in those games with losses to playoff teams in Miami and Toronto. They did also throttle the Washington Wizards by 42 points so they’re still pretty good!

Marcus Smart has been getting a lot of buzz for Defensive Player of the Year and would be the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton. He’s held Khris Middleton to 0-of-5 shooting on 2-point attempts this season but Jrue Holiday has had some success, shooting 5-of-9 overall and 3-of-4 on 2s.

They also boast two very, very good defensive wings in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Without Williams (and potentially Horford), I wonder how much we see these two take turns defending Giannis Antetokounmpo (with help, of course).

Head coach Ime Udoka has turned this Celtics team into the best defense in the league but will be in tough tonight without their anchor against Antetokounmpo and friends.