Spiraling: Bucks vs. Celtics Preview

The Celtics have had some reasons to smile so far this season. Like being better than we all expected them to be. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The Celtics have had some reasons to smile so far this season. Like being better than we all expected them to be. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Last night, the Bucks played the Charlotte Bobcats. They were outrebounded 54-38, outscored in the paint 44-26, and shot 33% from the floor. As you might expect, they lost, 92-76. Tonight, they play the Boston Celtics, another team projected to be pretty bad this year. They are also strong at rebounding and scoring in the paint, which will pose another challenge for the Bucks. In an act of what I can only describe as mercy, FS-Wisconsin has elected not to air this game on television. If you still feel the desire to follow the game, tune in to 620-WTMJ or NBA Audio League Pass (it’s free!) to commiserate with voice of the Bucks, Ted Davis.

What to Watch For: Bucks

The team’s interior presence has been nothing short of horrific this season. The Bucks are second-to-last in the league in rebounding and dead last in rebounding percentage at a dismal 46%. It’s a fairly horrid scene no matter what configuration of frontcourt players the team sends out – long, mobile players like John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, and Giannis Antetokounmpo get bullied out of the way of rebounds by opposing forwards, while the more rugged Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Raduljica seem to slow or out-of-place to corral loose balls either. Those players combined with the absence of Ersan Ilyasova‘s usually reliable rebounding presence mean that the Bucks are routinely getting demolished inside.

Combine THAT with 39% shooting outside of the paint and you’ve got a team that simply cannot score. The key to at least regaining some respectability – if not pulling out some wins – will be to re-establish some of that inside game. Whether it’s finding more minutes for certain players or simply finding the correct combination of length, bulk, and offensive skill, coach Larry Drew is still searching for the answers to his team’s interior woes.

Some relief might come against a Celtics team that is also not great at rebounding – 20th overall. But scoring may also be at a premium against a top-10 defensive team allowing less than 97 points per game. Given the Bucks’ offensive woes, expect a point total well below that.

What to Watch For: Celtics

Many people wrote off the Celtics this season as a team that was blatantly tanking as they wait to get Rajon Rondo back from an ACL tear suffered last season. However, at 7-11 in a terrible Eastern Conference, they’re right in the middle of the chase and have shown signs that they can be a good team despite shipping off Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the offseason.

After fighting through injuries last year, Jared Sullinger has established himself as a viable NBA starter, averaging almost 13 points and 7 rebounds while sporting a team-best 19.3 PER. His interior play combined with the scoring prowess of Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford will have to be an emphasis for the Bucks’ defense. The Celtics aren’t a great offensive team – averaging only 93 points per game – but Green, in particular, has the ability to go off at any time and should be closely watched in this matchup.

Logistics:

Time – 8:00 p.m. CST (SO LATE. DAMN YOU ELMO!)

TV – None

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Brandon Knight (hamstring; day-to-day), Ersan Ilyasova (hamstring, day-to-day), Caron Butler (knee, day-to-day) Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)

Celtics: Courtney Lee (knee, day-to-day), Kelly Olynyk (ankle, day-to-day)

Projected Lineups

Bucks:

PG Brandon Knight

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ersan Ilyasova

C Zaza Pachulia

Celtics:

PG Jordan Crawford

SG Avery Bradley

SF Jeff Green

PF Brandon Bass

C Jared Sullinger

Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)

Line: Boston -2.5

Over/Under: 186

WHY WOULD I EVER PICK THE BUCKS TO COVER!? This is getting crazy. I keep thinking, this team HAS to win a game eventually. Then they don’t win a game. I’m tempted once again to pick the Bucks to finally get a win, but Boston defends like crazy and plays super hard. The Bucks don’t do either of those things.

So, I’ll stick with logic and tell my gut to go eat another piece of pumpkin pie, tubby. Boston -2.5, under 186.

Record: 8-4 (3-3 ATS and 5-1 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Jared Sullinger

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(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

I spoke earlier about the Bucks’ interior deficiencies, and one of the keys to maintaining control of the painted area will be to corral Mr. Sullinger here. He’s not exactly a shot-blocking menace (0.6 per game), but he’s been on a roll lately, averaging 14 points and grabbing up 8 rebounds over his last 10 games. He played minimally in the last matchup between these two teams in favor of Vitor Favorani, who finished with 12 points and 18 rebounds of his own. Don’t be surprised if Sullinger picks up the eye-popping rebound total in this matchup.

Prediction:

Celtics 96, Bucks 86 

Categories: Game Previews

Mitch has been a fan of the Bucks since the days of…

4 Comments

  1. The saddest thing about the Bucks written in this piece is Jeremy’s statement that “Boston defends like crazy and plays super hard,” while the Bucks “don’t do either of those things.” I mean if you can’t even put in a good effort, what’s the point; and why would you expect anyone to spend their time and money to watch you.
    Coach Drew has to take charge starting right now and play anybody who’s going to play hard (for the team!), and have the wherewithal to bench anyone who isn’t. If Hammond/Kohl interfere, he’s got to stand up to them; after all, his contract is probably guaranteed, so they gotta pay him even if they fire him… and why would he mind being fired if he’s being undermined by players and/or management.
    So this is a Norman Dale/”Hoosiers” moment: “My players are on the floor.” (love that scene!) Let’s identify the guys on the Bucks who are willing to play with hustle and heart; and then, if needs be, look elsewhere for more of the good ones, even in the D-League (maybe even Scott Suggs.) After all, it would be difficult to get any worse.
    My goal for the Bucks this season is to turn around the attitude so that the team is at least bearable to watch… some youthful enthusiasm, some veteran professionalism, some sense of hope, some reason to root for these guys. Go Bucks… even if that means a few kicks in the pants!!!

    • The only problem is the Bucks are just not good at any aspect of the game. The effort is there, but with injuries and general lack of talent, this is/was going to be a long year. The Bucks need to bottom out and have a chance at a franchise player. There are few sure things in the draft but this is the year to get a possible game changer.

    • This is fairly simple, lose every single game and earn an opportunity to grab 1 of 4 likely all stars and potential franchise players. The bucks will be long gone if we continue to clamor to the 10th spot in the draft. In order for the bucks to have a future in this city, we need to tank this season and grab randle, wiggins, Parker or Exum simple enough. If we do not, this franchise is doomed and we can relish all the sub 500 glory years where we grabbed the 8th seed. We are in nba purgatory and trying to win game this year would be the equivalent of signing a contract to export the team. Tank this season, make the playoffs next year and contend the year after. It’s a 3 year turnaround. If not, we are doomed.
      #i love the bucks but we need wiggins, Parker randle or Exum.