Potential Celtic playoff foes: Milwaukee
BOSTON -- The Celtics are, indeed, the exception to the rule when it comes to postseason positioning.
With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, Boston is all but assured of being the No. 1 or 2 seed in the East. The rest, with the exception of the conference-leading Raptors, better buckle up for what’s shaping up to be a wild ride into the playoffs.
The Celtics (50-23) will publicly tell you they’re not thinking about who they might play in the first round, but this team has been too good and too well-prepared to not to be looking at playoff hopefuls. Among them: The Bucks. Currently at No. 7, Milwaukee would be Boston’s first-round opponent if the postseason began today.
With any playoff matchup, there are pros and cons to consider . . .
- The Bucks have talent, which in itself makes them a team to be concerned about. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.3 points per game (which ranks fourth in the NBA), shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from 3-point range, and also has 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. And the supporting cast is as strong as ever, with Eric Bledsoe looking more comfortable and Jabari Parker now healthy.
- Since the All-Star break the Bucks have been one of the league’s top-10 squads in shooting the ball, which, when you combine that with their length, makes them the kind of roster the Celtics can’t sleep on. Especially knowing that they won’t have Kyrie Irving for some, if not all, of the first-round series.
- This series will begin in Boston and success on the road is not the Bucks' thing. They have one of the worst road records (16-19) among teams currently among the top eight in the East. They defeated Boston at the TD Garden earlier this season, but that was the first game the Celtics played after Gordon Hayward’s gruesome dislocated left ankle injury. The teams have met twice since -- once in Milwaukee and once in Boston -- with the Celtics winning both.
AND MORE PROS
- One of the keys to Boston’s success against Milwaukee is that -- despite having length at seemingly every position -- the Bucks are not a very good rebounding team. To be blunt, they have been among the league’s worst on the glass since the All-Star break. They have particularly putrid on the defensive boards, which is often a portal into how a team fares defensively. Since the All-Star break Milwaukee has grabbed a league-worst 39.8 rebounds per game. They have an overall rebounding percentage of .477 (27th in the NBA) and a defensive rebounding percentage of .721, which is dead last in the NBA and a major factor in their defensive rating of 110.4 being ranked 22nd in the league.
AND STILL MORE PROS
- And when you get past the players and their talent, you’re often left with how the coaches match up against one another. No disrespect to Joe Prunty, but he’s no Brad Stevens. Since Prunty took over for Jason Kidd the Bucks have gone 15-12 which is a slightly better winning percentage (.556) than the 24-22 record (.522 winning percentage) they had when they fired Jason Kidd on Jan. 23. Still, if this game comes down to late-game decisions by the coaches which isn’t all that out of the realm of possibility . . . let’s just say that’s not a good thing for the other Green Team and their chances of pulling off a major series upset.