Celtics' first-round matchup vs Bucks means get ready for the Giannis show

Celtics' first-round matchup vs Bucks means get ready for the Giannis show

BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

Get used to seeing and hearing his name, Celtics fans.

Because this first-round series between Boston and Milwaukee will be all about Milwaukee’s do-it-all All-Star. 

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And that’s what makes this first-round series against the Bucks a scary one for Boston:


SUNDAY, APRIL 15: Game 1 at Boston, 1 p.m.
TUESDAY, APRIL 17: Game 2 at Boston, 8 p.m.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20: Game 3 at Milwaukee, 9:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22: Game 4 at Milwaukee, 1 p.m.
xTUESDAY, APRIL 24: Game 5 at Boston, TBA
xTHURSDAY, APRIL 26: Game 6 at Milwaukee, TBA
xSATURDAY, APRIL 28: Game 7 at Boston, TBA

x -- if necessary

When discussions center around the NBA’s best young talent, Antetokounmpo figures prominently in such conversations. 

But as talented he is, the Greek Freak has yet to lead the Bucks out of the first round of the playoffs. 

The opportunity to do that has not been any greater than it is this year against the Celtics. 

Boston comes into this first-round series as banged up as the Celtics have been all year. 

They will be without their top scorer in Kyrie Irving as well as their best defender in Marcus Smart, although Smart is on track to be back by the end of this month which would put his return close to the end of the first round, or early in the second. 

Boston will also be missing Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) as well as Gordon Hayward (ankle) who has been out for all but the first five minutes of the season.  

Boston is as vulnerable to be knocked off as any top seed in the playoffs that opens the postseason at home. 

But as we’ve seen this season, a vulnerable Celtics team is a dangerous club that will be a tough out regardless of who the opposing team is.

And as you look at the Bucks roster, you see the Greek Freak is surrounded by talented players like Eric Bledsoe, Jabari Parker and promising young players like Thon Maker and reigning rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon. 

You see all that talent and then … you see the 44-38 record. 

And then you’re reminded about how they did not show up – at all – in a 130-95 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

More disturbing was how the Bucks began that game on the short end of a 46-18 start, with most of those early minutes going to their regulars.

“You lose by 30, 40 it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” Antetokounmpo told reporters after Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia. “Got to go back, get better, work on your game and hopefully when the time is right in the playoff time you can bring your A-game.”

And that’s what you’re afraid of if you’re the Celtics. 

At some point, Antetokounmpo is going to have a breakthrough playoff series and lead his team past the first round for the first time since 2001. 

And if there was ever a time when that goal seemed possible, it’s now. 

Brad Stevens is well-versed on the challenges that defending a player like Antetokounmpo presents to an opposing defense. 

Look for Stevens to throw lots of bodies at him, ranging from the team’s stretch big man Al Horford, to versatile wing man Jaylen Brown in addition to forward Semi Ojeleye who will all likely be matched up against Antetokounmpo.

“His ability to get downhill in transition, downhill off action and his ability to guard multiple positions and create chaos with his speed,” Brad Stevens said earlier this season regarding Antetokounmpo. “He’s a really good player.” 

A good player who seems due for a breakout postseason that could be coming sooner than most, the Celtics included, are prepared for.


How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

The Maine Red Claws had plenty of star power for Friday night's game vs. the Iowa Wolves. 

Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters and Romeo Langford each suited up for Maine in its 127-121 victory. It marked Edwards' first game with the Red Claws, as well as both Tacko Fall and Romeo Langford's first game back from injury.

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Here's how the four Celtics rookies performed:


Tacko made his mark in his 14 minutes played on Friday night. The 7-foot-5 phenom contributed 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting while bringing down 5 rebounds.


Edwards was solid in his first game in a Red Claws uniform as he racked up 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-9 from 3-pt).


Langford was slow out the gate, but picked it up in the second half to finish with 8 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds. The Celtics' No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft will look to simply stay healthy going forward, as he's dealt with a nagging ankle injury all season.


Waters, the G League Player of the Month for November, was relatively quiet in this one. The LSU product dropped 8 points while adding 3 assists in 27 minutes.

Also with standout performances were Yante Maten (26 points, 16 rebounds), Kaiser Gates (17 points, 7 rebounds), Bryce Brown (15 points, 4 assists) and Justin Bibbs (12 points, 6 rebounds).

Next, the Red Claws will take on the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

Ahead of a strange five-day break in mid-December, the Boston Celtics are sitting at 17-7. But it's hard to figure out exactly how confident to be in this team.

On the one hand, the squad has certainly surpassed expectations to kick off the season. They have been dominant at the TD Garden and did have a 10-game home winning streak to start the campaign.

However, the C's just dropped two close games in a row to other Eastern Conference powers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers. Do those losses mean that the confidence in the Celtics that many were feeling to start the season should wane?

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Abby Chin all weighed in on how confident they currently are in the Celtics. And despite the team's mini losing streak, they all are still fairly confident in the squad.

Chin gave the team a 7-of-10 confidence rating. She cited the performance of the Celtics' bigs against the 76ers and the "flashes" the team has shown this season as the primary reasons for that.

I feel like the Celtics bigs, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, did a serviceable job against Joel Embiid and held their own on the offensive end, and that gave me a lot of confidence in this team. I think that there's no way you're going to get that kind of game from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the same night maybe ever again in their careers in what they put up against the Sixers. And I still think we see flashes of what this team can be here and there which is why I'm excited about them.

Blakely was a bit more non-committal on a rating, and instead gave a range of somewhere between 7 to 8 with 8.5 being their ceiling.

I see two different teams. I see a team when they're complete and I see a team when they're incomplete. When they're incomplete, I'm with you, they're a 7. They were incomplete against Philly. When you have a healthy Marcus Smart and a relatively healthy, good-to-go health-wise team, they're an 8.

Blakely also called the Celtics "a good team" and said that if every team in the Eastern Conference was fully healthy, his top two teams would be the Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics.

Hear Forsberg's confidence in the Celtics along with more analysis from Blakley and Chin on the latest episode of "The Celtics Talk Podcast," which drops every week on YouTube and as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.