Any hopes of a deep playoff run for the Boston Celtics will in some way involve them having to go through the Milwaukee Bucks, who enter the NBA Bubble with the NBA's best overall record.
These two split the season series with the team at home emerging victorious.
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Both games featured impressive comebacks by Boston, but reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo stole the show. But not too far behind him was Kemba Walker, who went on a bit of a scoring binge of his own by averaging 36 points in the two meetings — his highest scoring average against any team this season.
Antetokounmpo is going to score against Boston and do so most likely in a highly efficient manner (he shot 54.3 percent in the two games this season). But even more problematic is how the Celtics have struggled to limit the impact of Khris Middleton, a two-time All-Star who plays like he's the league MVP whenever he faces Boston. In the two meetings, he averaged 24.5 points per game while shooting a blistering 64.3 percent from the field.
But the Celtics have reason to feel good about their chances considering one of the team’s top players, Jaylen Brown, was out with an injury in each of the two regular season meetings. A healthy Brown provides Boston with another defender for both Antetokounmpo and Middleton as well as another player with big-time scoring potential.
The wild cards in this series will be Marcus Smart, who averaged 21.5 points in the two meetings as a fill-in for Brown, and the Bucks starting backcourt which was a combined 6-for-28 shooting in the two games.
PREDICTIONS FOR CELTICS-BUCKS PLAYOFF SERIES
A. Sherrod Blakely: The Greek Freak and Khris Middleton will put up big numbers just like they always do against Boston. It’s their surrounding cast that Milwaukee fans should be worried about. Shortened rotations for the playoffs will favor Boston, whose top-shelf depth should provide them just enough to get past the Bucks.
Prediction: Celtics in 7 games
Chris Forsberg: A lot has been made about the Bucks losing home-court advantage inside the bubble. OK, but they also had the second-best road record in the NBA this season. Yes, their role players must show they can thrive on that neutral site but they also have Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has proven he’s the MVP on any floor.
The Celtics match up well against Milwaukee and if Khris Middleton didn’t shoot 85 percent from the floor whenever he sees green across the court, you could make a compelling case for Boston stealing a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup. Alas, the Bucks will have the most talented player on the court and the guess here is Antetokounmpo would find a way to will Milwaukee to the title round. Otherwise, speculation about his future plans is going to dominate the NBA conversation in the aftermath.
Prediction: Bucks in 7 games
DJ Bean: Say it with me: The. Bucks. Aren't. Better. Than. The. Celtics. Sure, they've been able to feast on teams in the regular season because they have the best player on the floor, but they've got one superstar and one very good player. That's it.
The Celtics already beat them once without Jaylen Brown and they nearly did it a second time. Healthy? Give me Boston.
Prediction: Celtics in 6 games