Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: No Freak accident - Bucks could surprise

30-teams-in-30-days-milwaukee-bucks-giannis-antetokounmpo-83017.jpg

30 teams in 30 days: No Freak accident - Bucks could surprise

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Milwaukee Bucks.

When Kobe Bryant was doling out expectations for some of the NBA’s brightest stars, there was a noticeable omission: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
 
So, Antetokounmpo reached out to Bryant via social media basically saying, ‘what about me?’

https://twitter.com/Giannis_An34/status/900767397556232192
 
The Black Mamba responded with a pretty cut-and-dry challenge – become the league’s MVP.

https://twitter.com/kobebryant/status/901798191766450176
 
Antetokounmpo will be in the conversation for sure, especially after being named an All-Star last season.

 
He averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.
 
The 6-foot-11 point forward became the first player since LeBron James in 2008-2009 to lead his team in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
 
But for the Greek Freak to come away with the league’s highest individual honor, Milwaukee will have to rack up a few more wins than last season’s 42-40 finish and likely advance past the first round of the playoffs, which they have not done since 2001.
 
They should benefit from a roster that remains relatively intact and seems poised to build off of last season’s postseason berth, where they were eliminated in the first round by Toronto in six games.
 
Despite not having a bona-fide, knockdown shooter (although Khris Middleton is pretty darn close), the Bucks were among the league’s best shooting teams in connecting on 47.4 percent of their shots which ranked fourth in the NBA.
 
However, the Bucks had their share of issues defensively despite having the kind of length at every position that, on paper at least, would lead one to believe they were one of the league’s better teams defensively.
 
But the numbers tell a different story, with the most noticeable being their defensive rating of 106.4, which ranked 19th in the NBA, tied with Houston and Philadelphia, a pair of defensively-challenged teams from last season.
 
Still, through the playoff series loss and the defensive challenges come growth, the kind that has the Bucks poised as one of the potential surprise teams in the East this season.
 
In addition to Antetokounmpo, the Bucks return a lineup that includes rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon (the first second-round pick to ever win the award), Jabari Parker, Middleton, as well as increased depth with Tony Snell, John Henson and Thon Maker.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: None.
 
Key losses:  Michael Beasley (free agent to New York).
 
Rookies of note:
D.J. Wilson.

Expectations: 48-34 (Second in the Central Division, fourth in the East)
 

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE