3 Milwaukee Bucks’ X-factors in playoff matchup versus Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 12 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 12 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday, Pat Connaughton, Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – DECEMBER 25 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

After taking down the Chicago Bulls in five games, the Milwaukee Bucks have advanced to the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, where they will face the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics, fresh off a clean four-game sweep over the Brooklyn Nets, look like arguably the best team in all of basketball right now. They will be a challenging opponent for the Bucks, especially as the defending champions are set to be without Khris Middleton for likely the entire series as he is recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain. With Middleton out of the picture, the Bucks will need their other players to step up against the Celtics as adversity knocks on the door. Milwaukee’s roster is deep, and they have several players capable in Middleton’s absence, as evidenced by the final few games of the series against Chicago. With that said, here are three X-factors that could be pivotal in the Milwaukee Bucks’ second round series versus the Boston Celtics.

Pat Connaughton will be a Milwaukee Bucks’ X-factor in their second round series vs. Boston Celtics

Pat Connaughton had a difficult time finding his footing in Milwaukee’s first round series against Chicago, for the most part. Throughout the first four games, the guard totaled 22 points while he shot 7-of-25 from the floor, including 5-of-22 from three. He was largely a non-factor throughout those first few games, but Connaughton came to life in the series-clinching Game 5 as he finished with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-9 from deep. He was outstanding in the series finale, and the Bucks will need him to build off that performance against the Celtics.

Milwaukee will not ask Connaughton to fill the scoring void left behind by Middleton on his own, but he can certainly help. After all, the six-year veteran averaged a career-high 9.9 points during the regular season, largely thanks to his prolific 3-point shooting, burying 39.5 percent of those shots on a career-high 5.7 attempts on average. Connaughton showed that he was capable of shouldering a larger load offensively off the bench, and the Bucks will need him at his best with the Celtics on the schedule. His performance must be closer to Game 5 than Games 1-4. He does not have to come out and score 20 every single game, but could he score 12-15 off the bench on efficient shooting? He is more than capable of doing so.

The guard’s defense will also be pivotal in this series, as he could be tasked with guarding plenty of different players. He did a solid job defensively against opposing guards in round one as he held them to 12-of-32 shooting, including 3-of-14 from distance. The Bucks will need him to replicate that success against Boston’s surplus of lethal scoring guards in this second round series.

Connaughton showed last season that he could step up on the biggest stage as he was the team’s unsung hero in their title run last year, and this will be another big opportunity for him. If the guard can come off the bench and provide some solid shooting and decent defense as he did in Game 5, he could be a significant X-factor for Milwaukee.