BOSTON -- The Milwaukee Bucks were supposed to be a good team this year.
But best-record-in-the-NBA good?
The season is still young, obviously. But to dismiss what the Bucks (7-0) have done thus far as them just getting off to a good start, doesn’t do justice to what’s looking more and more like a team that you have to lump into the best-of-the-best in the East.
And for the Boston Celtics, that’s a very, very good thing.
This time of the year, everyone is feeling their way through the season, trying to figure which combinations work best, who delivers consistently and maybe most important, how does the squad match up against the better teams out there.
Tonight’s Boston-Milwaukee game will serve as a good litmus test for both franchises.
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The Celtics (5-2) have won three in a row and are widely seen as the favorite to come out of the East.
Meanwhile, the Bucks are the lone undefeated team remaining in the NBA, and are looking for what would be a franchise-record eighth straight win to start the season.
And they’ve shown the ability to win both with and without their best player, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee beat then-undefeated Toronto Raptors 124-109 without Antetokounmpo, who sat out the game due to being in the league’s concussion protocol program after a blow to the head in Milwaukee’s win over the Orlando Magic.
“You get hit in the head and you feel pain for, 10 seconds,” Antetokounmpo told reporters on Wednesday. “But it was lingering; had a headache the next day.”
But he’s back, having been released from the league’s concussion protocol program and is ready to play tonight and in all likelihood will be a pain in the side of the Celtics’ defense which has been good all season.
However, the Greek Freak is playing at an extremely high level -- good enough to where he’s a legit MVP candidate, based upon his stats and his team’s overall success.
He is averaging 25.0 points and 14.7 rebounds per game along with 5.7 assists and 1.7 blocked shots.
No surprise, he’s looking forward to tonight’s matchup against a Celtics team that eliminated the Bucks in a hard-fought, seven game first-round series last spring.
“It’s gonna be a great test,” Antetokounmpo said. “They play really good at home; one of the top teams in the East.”
And a big reason for Boston’s lofty status is their 26-year-old, five-time All-Star, Kyrie Irving.
After struggling with his shot through the first six games, Irving had a monster breakout performance in Boston’s 108-105 win against Detroit.
Irving had a season-high 31 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
“Anytime he shoots the ball we all think it’s good,” Boston’s Aron Baynes said after Tuesday’s win over Detroit. “It’s a good shot. I think it’s just one of those things. It’s good to see him knock down a few … it just creates so much space for everyone else.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had been asked multiple times the past couple of weeks about Irving and his shooting struggles. Each instance, Stevens doubled down on the belief that it was just one of those things that Irving would work through in time.
That time apparently was Tuesday night, a performance that both Irving and the Celtics really needed to see and feel.
Stevens’ assessment of it?
“Law of averages,” he said. “Law of averages, which means he’s got a few more coming, right? So, I mean, he’s way too good of a scorer for the ball not to go in very long, and that stuff all evens out all the time.”
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