After brutally losing Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to injuries, the Boston Celtics have their hands full for a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ah, it’s that moment that I’ve been waiting for since October as a Boston Celtics fan; the NBA playoffs. The field seems to be a little bit more wide open than the past few years, especially since the Houston Rockets have a viable shot at knocking off the Golden State Warriors.
For now though, I want to delve deeper into the unusual two-seed versus seven-seed matchup in the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks and Celtics have played each other four times throughout the regular season, and the final contest was without Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics ended up spitting the series, although one game was without their star point guard, while the other was the second game of the season.
Normally in the NBA playoffs, individual match-ups and teams with star-studded players trump squads with great coaching. We’ve seen it in the past with the Cleveland Cavaliers making to the NBA Finals every year with LeBron as their coach basically.
However, in this particular series, coaching may actually matter. The Bucks have had an unfortunate season when it comes to stability up top. Jason Kidd’s inability to draw up plays at the end of games lead to his firing. In place of him is assistant Joe Prunty. With limited leadership experience, the Bucks’ lofty expectations resulted in a wildly inconsistent season.
Much of that has to do with the less-than-stellar supporting cast surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak continues to carry the team much like LeBron. Unfortunately in this case, he hasn’t reached that pedestal yet.
This will come down to Brad Stevens coaching
On the other side, Brad Stevens maintains success by making adjustments. When all seemed loss, Stevens used a “next man up” mentality, and Boston ripped off six straight wins to hang with the Toronto Raptors for the one-seed. Youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the ultimate keys to the Celtics this series, especially since one of them will have to contain Giannis.
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According to Basketball-Reference, the Greek native is still on a tear, as he averaged 27 points per game in the month of March on four assists per game. Surprisingly, against the Boston Celtics, he’s had some of his best games. In the four contests, Giannis has averaged 33.5 ppg on 54 percent shooting. Stevens will have to throw a lot of defensive lineups out there, especially with the absence of Marcus Smart.
In two out of the four games during the regular season, Brown has played tremendous. According to ESPN, he scored 18 points in the first meeting on 6/11 shooting, and topped that with 24 in the final game, where he had 24 points. He’s going to have the key to the offense, especially since his defensive assignment could be the toughest out of any matchup.
Unless Prunty turns into a top tier coach, I don’t see Milwaukee pulling it out in this series. Fellow staff writer Dylan Woods brought up a good point in his preview article when it comes to the Bucks’ defense. For all of the length that they have between Thon Maker and Giannis, their defensive performance has been pretty mediocre. The C’s, who occasionally go on offensive droughts, have reached over 95 points in every game played against Milwaukee.
In my opinion, Stevens’ intelligence will overpower Giannis’s star power. It’ll be close, but in the end, Boston in seven.