A preview of the Thursday night game between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks sport a league-leading 14.8 net rating after seven games and are the only undefeated team left. They have the sixth-best offense in the league and the second-best defense (behind only the Boston Celtics). Coach Mike Budenholzer has totally transformed the team Boston defeated in last year’s playoffs. No longer are they playing an archaic style on both sides of the ball and hoping the excellence of their superstar is enough; they’re playing a modern style and the results are impressive.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 25 points and 5.7 assists per game. He’s fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game and third in contested rebounds per game. His scoring efficiency is a little down from last year, but nobody is complaining about him shooting 51 percent with a career-high usage rate. The Bucks have a 113.4 offensive rating and a 94.9 defensive rating with him on the floor, which is patently insane even in a small sample. As former President Barack Obama said on a campaign stop, “Giannis is balling.”
The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, look like they’re starting to figure things out. They posted a phenomenal second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, and blew out the previously undefeated Detroit Pistons on Saturday. The defense has consistently been excellent, and the offense looks significantly better than the rock-fight isolation-heavy attack they used in the first few games. They’re still a far cry from where they need to be, but they’re moving in the right direction.
Here are some things to look for as the Celtics take on Milwaukee Thursday night.