Celtics again? What is this, the playoffs?: Bucks – Celtics Preview

Middleton got the start Saturday, but when he and Giannis swapped, some magic happened for Milwaukee. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Middleton got the start Saturday, but when he and Giannis swapped, some magic happened for Milwaukee. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“It kind of has a little bit of a, kind of a playoff feel when you have to play a team back-to-back like that.”

Larry Drew speaking to reporters Saturday before Milwaukee played the first of consecutive games against the Celtics.

So at least the Bucks will get to experience something like the playoffs this season.

What to Watch For: Bucks

The Bucks trotted out another new starting lineup against the Celtics on Saturday night. This one saw Brandon Knight and OJ Mayo in the backcourt alongside Khris Middleton, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson up front. While the Bucks did finally pull out a win, they again got off to a rough start, falling behind 19-14 before the first substitution was made. But Milwaukee may finally have stumbled onto a lineup worth looking into further on Saturday.

Down 32-27 with 8:25 to play in the second quarter, for the first time all season, this lineup was on the floor together: Knight-Mayo-Giannis-Udoh-Henson. The Bucks proceeded to play some of the best ball they’ve played all season. Defensively, the length of Giannis and Henson combined with Ekpe Udoh’s … uh … guile? … kept the Celtics from running away with the game. Meanwhile, Mayo and Knight went to work offensively, connecting on jumpers and drives and pushing the pace to get Milwaukee what they’ve lacked this season: easy baskets.

On the night, that group played 10 minutes together and finished with some terrific SMALL SAMPLE SIZE numbers.

Offensive rating: 121.8
Defensive rating: 60.4
Defensive rebound percentage: 91.7%

Here’s why the sample size is obviously important though: Knight and Mayo combined to go 5-5 on threes while this lineup was on the court. That’s going to impact any stats obviously. But I’m all in favor of seeing more of this group, specifically the trio of Knight-Giannis-Henson. Those guys all have plus plus plus defender capabilities and some real boom or bust potential on offense. BRING ON THE CHAOS.

What to Watch For: Celtics

The Celtics seemed to very much regret Saturday’s loss, not so much because they failed to execute, rather because they simply didn’t finish plays. Too many missed shots was the theme that the Boston crew stuck with.

Boston coach Brad Stevens said his team’s struggles simply were due to missing shots.

“We moved the ball against the zone and attacked where we wanted to,” he said. “We just didn’t make as many as we wanted to.”

The Celtics missed 15 of 19 3-point attempts.

“We definitely had a good amount of looks, but we just weren’t able to knock them down,” Boston’s Avery Bradley said. “Probably every 3 we took was wide open. We just weren’t able to convert.”

It sounds like the Celtics were comfortable with how they played against the Bucks, just bummed shots that usually go in for them didn’t go in. Larry Drew said after the game he felt like the zone defense Milwaukee played on and off throughout the game did a good job of disrupting the Celtics offense, so look for Boston to be prepared for more zone on Tuesday.

Logistics:

Time – 6:30 p.m. CST

TV – FS Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (hamstring, day-to-day), Caron Butler (knee; out) 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 Ekpe Udoh

C John Henson

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 -6.5

Over/Under: 185

This is a weird thing, my inability to correctly predict a game against the spread combined with my ability to correctly predict the over/under on a near nightly basis. If anything, it reinforces the most important gambling rule we can all learn: Avoid parlays.

I’m a believer that zone defenses aren’t for extended NBA use. The Celtics aren’t shooter rich, but they aren’t the Pistons either (haha, the Pistons, those guys can’t shoot, amiright?!). If the Bucks go back to the well for more zone water, I think they’ll remain thirsty and find trouble in the form of dehydration instead.

Analogies. Celtics -6.5, under 185.

Record: 9-5 (3-4 ATS and 6-1 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Jeff Green

jeffgreenpostridnour
(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

I cannot emphasize enough how glowingly Larry Drew spoke of Jeff Green last Saturday night. Not only after Green muscled his way to 18 points while tallying six assists, but before Green did his damage too.

“Jeff Green, he’s as good as they are,” he said prior to Saturday’s game. “He can do it from the outside, he can do it inside, he’s good in transition.”

Consider him a fan.

Prediction:

Celtics 96, Bucks 86 

Categories: Game Previews

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

7 Comments

  1. Today’s question:

    If a top 3 pick in this year’s draft was offered for Giannis right now. Would you take it?

    • I don’t really fancy hypothetical questions, but I do like this one.

      As an aside, there were rumors that Orlando was demanding a first-round pick for J.J. Redick, so it’s definitely possible the Bucks were thinking about trading their first-rounder (which turned out to be Giannis) instead of Tobias Harris.

      Regardless, if I had to choose right now between Giannis and a top-three pick in next year’s draft (assuming it would be Milwaukee’s only first-round selection), I’d lean toward the latter.I think there are at least three draft prospects who are safer bets with similar ceilings. If it were an additional pick, I’d pass.

    • This is a very interesting question! I think if I were a GM I’d pull the trigger on that only because guys like Wiggins and Parker have more star power and would sell more jerseys and have more exposure that would benefit the Bucks. I heard Giannis has grown 1.25 inches since joining the Bucks and is probably going to end up being 7 feet tall once he’s done..that’s kind of a scary thought with him already being as athletic and mobile as he is

  2. Another swipe at Khris Middleton in the photo caption, another dismissal of him in the article. It’s good to have healthy debate, but Jeremy, you seem to be taking this almost personally, that is your mimimizing of Khris. You go gaga over just about every little thing that Giannis does, but blah-blah about Khris.
    Admittedly, Giannis has a flair for the spectacular and probably some awesome potential; I’m rooting for him to do great, and hope he gets some time (about 20 minutes for the present) to show us how ready he is for the Bucks. However, I don’t think it’s either/or; why not Giannis and Khris? (who has been our best player so far this year amidst the early-season chaos, and who is also growing into the NBA). Anyway, if you really think Giannis is the cat’s meow, and Khris just meh… well, I generally respect your opinions, but I have to wonder if you’re digging in this time for “ornery” reasons.

      • You still sound a little ornery to me, Jeremy — and your very fair review of Khris is a “B-“? Anyway, we can call a truce to this if you want, take a step back, accept our differences, and hope both Giannis and Khris do well. I’ll try not to be too provocative, and keep all of this in good fun. I also appreciate JABShocker’s comments below.
        I do think John Henson and Larry Sanders are the two most promising players and best pieces on the Bucks. I think Khris has been a little better than John so far this season mainly because John has been given so few minutes; I’d like to see both get more time, in the 30 minute range. To me, Giannis and Khris are still big question marks, but I hope both answer with exclamation points. I can see how you and others get excited about Giannis’ athleticism; I just hope not carried away, at least for now.

  3. I like Khris Middleton. I think he has the potential to be a decent to good rotational player. I would like to emphasize the rotational part of the last sentence. I know that Middleton had first round potential coming out of college before he got hurt (slipped into the second round). He only played a limited amount of time last year because of injury, so this is effectively his first true taste of the Association, and so far I’m impressed, at times. But comparing him to Giannis, just from a talent perspective alone, is flawed. I’ve seen much, much more potential in Giannis.

    The block (against Boston) of Jordan Crawford from behind at the rim on a fast break and then having the speed and athleticism to charge down the middle of the floor on the other end for a dunk is a play that superstars make. I’m am by no means calling him a superstar, and I’m not even remotely saying he will be, but when Khris Middleton makes that play I will be on board. But he won’t likely make that play because his talent doesn’t allow him to. I’ve seen Giannis do that twice since the preseason. That is a play that LeBron makes. Again, that is where THAT comparison ends…but it is those kind of plays that gets you excited for what might be.

    As for Middleton being the Bucks best player this season… come on. Jeremy Schmidt is correct about John Henson. Giannis and Henson are the foundation for the future, hopefully as complimentary pieces to whomever they draft next year if they keep on this pace of losing. There are no guarantees on that draft pick, as we all know, but if there was ever a year to have a top 6 pick, this is the one.