Tale as old as 2018. Celtics-Bucks in the playoffs, only this time the Bucks have home court advantage. Except that’s not going to matter very much because the Celtics are back and the Bucks are who they are.
Last year, the Celtics and Bucks met in the first round of the playoffs and had an epic series that created fun rivalries and was a great way to kick off the 2018 playoff campaign, however, things were much different then. For one, the Celtics were playing with house money. They had nothing to lose and had no pressure on themselves to win whatsoever. The only active All Star on the team was Al Horford and the series quickly became about Terry Rozier and Eric Bledsoe. Scary Terry went off, Bledsoe pretended he didn’t know who Rozier was, Rozier arrives to the game in a Drew Bledsoe jersey and then cooks Bledsoe for the rest of the series. It was awesome. It was gritty. It’s what the East needed. Two likable teams who would spark a rivalry as the result of a 7-game series.
Like I said however, this year is different. The Bucks are a lot better of a team. Not only are they the #1 seed led by should-be MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they added sharpshooting big man Nikola Mirotic, veterans Pau Gasol, George Hill and Brook Lopez, and the development of Khris Middleton. Simply put, if Giannis keeps his promise to stay in Milwaukee, the Bucks are going to be very, very good for a very, very long time.
The Celtics are also a very different team. They added Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and like I’ve been saying all playoffs, Gordon Hayward is back, which doesn’t bode well for the Bucks. The defensive matchups the Celtics can throw the Bucks this season is what is going to make them ultimately meet their demise. Al Horford has shown that he can contain Giannis in the paint as can Aron Baynes. That’s not me being a homer or trying to discredit Giannis, thats me just stating facts. Without Horford and Baynes in the paint, Giannis’ probably 25 PPG in this series easily turns into 35 PPG. Haywards lateral quickness being back means that he can pop out and guard Mirotic leaving Horford home to guard the paint, which means if the Bucks have to rely on Khris Middleton to carry them to win the series they are absolutely in trouble.
At the beginning of the playoffs I thought the loss of Marcus Smart was going to have a monumental impact on the defensive strategy of the Celtics, but so far it hasn’t. The Celtics have had their best defensive ratings of the year in the 4 games against Indiana and a lot of that had to do with moving Jaylen Brown into Smarts starting position and leaving Hayward to fully man the second unit.
Offensively, the Celtics are also finally coming into their own. They’re playing freely again. Jayson Tatum is making smart passes, Jaylen Brown is shooting with confidence, Kyrie Irving is being Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward has his bounce back. The Celtics are getting every shot they want, they just haven’t been falling at the potential rate they could be falling at, but if there’s one positive thing that this team has shown this year it’s that in the big games and big moments, they ball out. If those shots drop in Milwaukee, the Celtics win this thing in 6.
The Bucks won the regular season series 2-1 with one of those wins being 98-97 final, but I expect this series to be 2-2 in the first four and the Celtics sweeping the last 2. See you all tomorrow at noon. Let’s go C’s.