The first matchup of the season between the two favorites in the Eastern Conference took place Wednesday. The Milwaukee Bucks suffered a 119-116 defeat on the road to the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee remains in the third seed and two games back of Boston.
Jayson Tatum was questionable with an illness but was able to shake it off and score 23 points. At no point did the Bucks lead, and they were even 21 points down in the first half. It took until the fourth quarter for the Bucks to really mount any sort of comeback, but in the end, it wasn't enough.
The Bucks have had struggles this season at times and looked to sort those out with a five-game win streak before Wednesday night's defeat. One worrying stat from the box score is the Bucks shot 17 more shots but only made one more than the Celtics.
The Bucks will face the Washington Wizards on Friday in their third game of the NBA In-Season tournament and will look to iron out those issues that they faced in their defeat against Boston.
With the round-up out of the way, let's take a look at three studs and three duds from the Bucks' narrow defeat to the Boston Celtics.
Stud - Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez has seen his usage go down this season with the arrival of a dominant scoring guard now on the roster in Damian Lillard. On the season, his average has dropped from 15.9 points per game to 11.9 points so far. Defensively, he started the season slow but has begun to get back to the form we saw from him last season that resulted in him being a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Against Boston, he led the team in scoring with 28 points and seven rebounds to go with a block and a steal. He was 12-of-18 from the field, and two of those were 3-pointers. Lopez was dominant at the rim, with the rest of his teammates struggling to score. It was he who helped keep the Bucks in the game when the Celtics continued to dominate.
From deep this season, Lopez is hitting .338 compared to his .374 last season, so it was nice to see him hit two of his five attempts, and hopefully this performance can kickstart his season from a shooting perspective.
Dud - Khris Middleton
We know that Khris Middleton is still on his way back to full health, but he still played 28 minutes Wednesday night, and it wasn't great, to say the least. In the past, he has always been a thorn in the side of the Celtics, but Wednesday night was somewhat of a struggle for him.
He ended the game with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds. The problem was the amount of shots he missed. Middleton hit four of his 14 shots (28.6 percent), and against a team of Boston's caliber, that is a big problem.
All season, the Bucks have struggled to start games well, and last night was no different. The first quarter ended 29-17 in Boston's favor, and Milwaukee's Big 3 didn't do what was expected of them. Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton combined to hit just three of 19 shots in the opening quarter and apart from a late rally in the fourth the deficit was too big to overcome.
There were some questionable shots by all three players and then the good looks they failed to hit. I think we are still waiting on a fully healthy but it is games like last night where you look to him to help add to the offense and take the weight off of Giannis and Lillard and sadly we just didn't see it.