The Bucks will start Gary Neal at point guard: Bucks vs. Celtics Preview

We're probably going to see a lot more of this guy on Friday night (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
We’re probably going to see a lot more of this guy on Friday night. Even though he’s not starting. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Man, injuries suck.

Brandon Knight‘s time as the Bucks’ season-opening starter at point guard lasted all of two minutes before he went down with another hamstring injury. Combined with Luke Ridnour’s balky back and Ersan Ilyasova‘s nagging ankle sprain, the Bucks have been hit early and hard by the injury bug. Ilyasova will return to the starting lineup Friday night, but, you’d think the team went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers the way injuries have decimated both organizations this year. Too soon?

As a result, Nate Wolters figures to factor in more than anyone expected to this early Bucks season.With Knight and Ridnour doubtful for Friday night’s game in Boston, the rookie second-rounder figures to see plenty of playing time after being thrown in early against the Knicks. I mean, it’s either that or more point guard time for Gary Neal (cue Ian sobbing softly). [Editor’s note: Gary Neal is tabbed to start tonight, according to Bucks announcer Ted Davis. Sorry, Ian.]

At any rate, Wolters’ trial by fire will likely continue into the near future as Knight nurses his hamstring and Ridnour receives treatment on his back. Though he started slow on Wednesday, he became noticeably more comfortable as the game progressed. Can he continue to rapidly adapt to the NBA game? Can he become a Midwestern basketball folk hero? I hope so. We all need something to believe in.

What to Watch For: Bucks

Wednesday’s season opener followed a script we’ve seen many times in the past few seasons: the Bucks go down early, fight their way back into the game in the second half, and ultimately make several key errors in the closing minutes to lose the game. Against the Celtics, we’ll be looking for a more cohesive game. Whether that comes from a steady starting lineup (which we may not see for a while) or experimentation with rotations, consistency and established player roles may go a long way toward steadying a historically unsteady team.

What to Watch For: Celtics

The Bucks will be facing a severely stripped-down Celtics team as compared to the last time these two teams met. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are gone, having been traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Rajon Rondo, the best remaining Celtic, is out while recovering from ACL surgery last season. The best remaining offensive weapon is Jeff Green, who posted 25 points and five rebounds in the team’s 93-87 loss in the season opener at Toronto. For the Celtics, the focus is on the future; Jared Sullinger will return from a one-game suspension and rookie Kelly Olynyk figures to get significant playing time as the Celtics begin to determine how to rebuild the team.

Injury Report

Bucks: Brandon Knight (hamstring, day-to-day), Luke Ridnour (back, day-to-day), Ersan Ilyasova (ankle, day-to-day), Carlos Delfino (foot, out)

Celtics: Rajon Rondo (knee, out), Avery Bradley (concussion, day-to-day), Keith Bogans (thumb, day-to-day)

Projected Lineups

Bucks:

PG Gary Neal

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Caron Butler

PF Ersan Ilyasova

C Larry Sanders

Celtics:

PG Avery Bradley

SG Jeff Green

SF Gerald Wallace

PF Brandon Bass

C Vitor Faverani

Choose the Form of the Destructor

Two years ago, Jeff Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, which required major heart surgery and caused him to miss the entire 2011-12 season. After he came back, he only averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds per game after the All-Star Break, which included efforts of 43, 34, 31, 27, and 27 points. He picked up where he left off with his 25-point effort in Toronto on Thursday.

Is that good? I’d say that’s good.

At any rate, Green is the brightest spot in an otherwise dim Celtics lineup right now and will represent a challenge for the Bucks’ front line. Plus, he’s been given the nickname Iron Man by Boston fans, which is pretty cool, all things considered.

Prediction

Bucks 91, Celtics 87, 0 team buses overturned in World Series celebrations.

Categories: Game Previews

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