Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

USA Today Sports

Important things to remember as Celtics face Bucks

Nick Friar
April 28, 2019 - 11:20 am

The Celtics-Bucks Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup is set to start, with top-seeded Milwaukee still the favorite to win the series. Having arguably the best player in the NBA from the 2018-19 season certainly helps the Bucks’ chances.

But this series won’t be anything like either team’s first-round matchup. Both sides are playing too well and have too much talent for this to be over in less than six games. Here are some of the more important things to keep in mind heading into this Boston v. Milwaukee matchup:

 

No Malcolm Brogdon . . . for now

Boston’s best bet at pulling off the upset is winning at least one of the first two games on the road. Otherwise, they run the risk of seeing Malcolm Brogdon back on the court if the series is extended to long. The Milwaukee guard has been out since mid-March with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot and will miss Game 1 and 2.

If he returns, he probably won’t be the same guy he was pre-injury. A foot problem like that doesn’t make for a smooth return in less than two month’s time. However, he’ll still be a major threat from outside (team-high 42.6 percent from three) and would help Giannis Antetokounmpo drive-and-dish more effectively.

 

Terry Rozier v. Eric Bledsoe

Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving will be all over the commercials for this Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup, but the real rivalry here is Terry Rozier v. Eric Bledsoe.

Last year, Rozier embarrassed Bledsoe as much as one professional athlete can another. Scary Terry said he’s not paying attention to that battle right now, but admits there will probably be some tension.

If Bledsoe takes his personal payback too far it could create an unnecessary problem for the Bucks. If Rozier tries to do the same, he’ll simply find himself on the bench — which wouldn’t be good for the Marcus Smart-less Celtics.

 

Who’s got Giannis?

Al Horford has been the Celtics answer to Antetokounmpo. But what’s going to happen if the only other Boston big man on the floor is out guarding Brook Lopez on the perimeter. Someone needs to be able to clog up the middle against Antetokounmpo and whoever else might slash.

That might mean pulling Horford off of Antetokounmpo more often than Boston might like. That means Brad Stevens will probably look for to Jaylen Brown to be the elite defender he has shown he can be in the past. It could also mean we see a lot more of the brick house that goes by the name of Semi Ojeleye.

 

Celtics stars up to snuff

Jayson Tatum shot 50.9 percent from the floor against Indiana and averaged 19.3 points per game. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics through each late surge against the Pacers and averaged 22.5 points a night throughout the series. Gordon Hayward went bananas in Game 4 (7-for-9 shooting, 20 points) after Jaylen Brown was even better in Game 3 (8-for-9, 23 points). If three of these four are clicking on any given night, they’re tough for anyone to stop, especially if Marcus Morris or Al Horford mix in a big night here or there.

 

Milwaukee’s defense is better than Indiana’s

The Bucks had the best defensive rating (104.9) in the NBA during the regular season. The Pacers had the third-best (105.9). The Celtics didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard against Indiana, but Indy’s offense was so bad it didn’t matter. (And the C’s defense was pretty good, too.) Now Boston has to face a team that can play a complete game.

That could be a problem.

 

Celtics v. Bucks historically

The Celtics all-time record against the Bucks in the postseason is 20-14. Last year was Boston’s first playoff matchup with the Bucks since 1987.

Neither of those stats has any bearing on this series. They’re just stupid footnotes. (Thus being at the end of this post.)