The Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are set for a playoff rematch that should set up to be a classic showdown.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a different animal, but so are the Boston Celtics led by a motivated All-Star closer in Kyrie Irving and a rejuvenated All-Star in Gordon Hayward whose confidence is growing by the game.
On Monday night, the 60-win Bucks led by that man known as the Greek Freak completed a four-game sweep of the Detroit Pistons with a 127-104 beating to set up a showdown between two teams who battled seven games in last year’s first-round playoff matchup.
Do those additions offset what Irving and a healthy, confident Hayward adds to a team that was just a quarter away from defeating LeBron James?
The regular season would say the Bucks led by MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo is a better overall team than a Boston Celtics squad that slept walked through the regular season.
If anyone still remembers that 60-win Atlanta Hawks team of 2014-15 who ultimately got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks had a similar season with a head coach in Mike Budenholzer who happened to have coached that team.
Not to say that Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and those boys are a far more elite and talented team than that Atlanta team that happened to have been led by Celtics big man Al Horford, but at Kyrie Irving points out over and over again, the regular season means nothing when the grind of the playoffs begin.
Speaking of Kyrie Irving, he was on that team that team that ousted the Hawks. And unlike last year, he is healthy and has found his leadership niche. Add his experience to an older Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and finally the Boston Celtics are looking like the Eastern Conference favorites they were before the regular season began.
Fear the Deer?
Most certainly. The Milwaukee Bucks are no Indiana Pacers. They have scorers galore, but as mediocre as the Celtics played all season long, they battled the Bucks pretty strong when healthy. There was a blowout involved, but Boston barely dressed any players for that game and still jumped out to a quick lead against the Bucks, before ultimately being overmatched.
Throwing out that game, both teams won close games at home. In the last matchup, following the All-Star game, the Boston Celtics battled the Bucks in a 98-97 loss in Milwaukee. Despite the loss, that game had to give the team confidence that they can beat this team on the road.
Similar to LeBron James, the Greek Freak will be the best player on the court. However, the Celtics have the best closer in the game on their team. They also have enough playmakers who show no fear in taking big shots themselves.
Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, the tough defense of Aron Baynes will all play factors in this series. While Gordon Hayward will be an X-factor, the overall game of Al Horford could be the difference in the Celtics advancing or ultimately losing the series to the Bucks.
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In summary, the Boston Celtics are finding their stride at the right time and are even more dangerous because the sexy Eastern Conference favorites are the Milwaukee Bucks. Back into that old familiar underdog role, don’t count out a team that is proving they can indeed flip a switch.