Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks: Lineups, preview & prediction 4/20/18
The Celtics have raced out to a 2-0 series lead. Can the Bucks turn things around on their home floor?
After sneaking over the line in an incredible overtime game to start off the playoffs, Boston extended their series lead with a more comfortable 120-106 win against the Bucks. The Celtics’ backcourt proved too much for Milwaukee to handle, with Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier combining for 53 points in the win.
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo was dominant with 30 points, nine boards, and eight assists, while Khris Middleton continued his good form with 25 points. Their biggest issue was at the other end of the floor, where Boston were able to score 30 or more points in three of four quarters.
Three keys to the game
Milwaukee’s defense – The Bucks have been around the league average in defense throughout the course of the season, but they have been too easy to score against so far in this series. Boston, a side more renowned for their defense than their offense, have been able to score 113.2 points per 100 possessions through the first two games of the series, and if Milwaukee want to earn themselves a win at home they’ll need to reduce this number significantly.
The battle of the backcourts – Despite missing their star point guard to injury and starting a second year player at the two, the Celtics have dominated the backcourt in this series so far. In the first two games, Brown and Rozier have combined for 96 points for Boston. In contrast, Tony Snell and Eric Bledsoe have scored just 25 points despite playing a similar number of minutes. The assist numbers also heavily favor the Celtics, with their backcourt having dished out 16 dimes compared to Snell and Bledsoe’s eight.
Turnovers – This has been another area of concern for the Bucks. Through the first two games they have committed 35 turnovers, which have led to 24 points per game. The Celtics have given up the ball just 20 times, nearly half that of their opponents, and have allowed just 14 points per game off turnovers.
Matchup to watch
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo – Horford hasn’t really been able to contain the Greek Freak so far in this series, but he has still been a major contributor for his Celtics. In the first two games of the series he has averaged 20 points on 63.2% shooting, grabbed 8.5 rebounds, dished out 4.0 assists, and contributed 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks.
At the other end of the floor, his opponent has been unstoppable. Antetokounmpo added 35 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in the first game. In the second, he went 13-for-17 from the floor on the way to 30 points, and also contributed nine boards, eight assists, a steal and a block. At his best, nobody in the world can stop him, but Horford has, at least, been a problem at the other end of the floor.
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup
PG – Eric Bledsoe | SG – Tony Snell | SF – Khris Middleton | PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo | C – John Henson
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG – Terry Rozier | SG – Jaylen Brown | SF – Jayson Tatum | PF – Al Horford | C – Aron Baynes
Antetokounmpo hasn’t been the only Buck putting up big numbers in this series. Middleton has started the series extremely well, scoring 56 points through the first two games. He is going at 61.1% from the floor, and has connected on 9-for-13 of his 3-pointers – a connection rate of 69.2%.
At the other end, Brown has also been terrific. In the first game he scored 20 points and dished out four assists, and in the second he was even better as he went 12-for-22 from the floor and 5-for-12 from long range on the way to 30 points in just 33 minutes of action.
Despite losing the first two games, the Bucks are relatively comfortable favorites in this game. They are a much better side at home, but the six-point handicap they have been given is too much considering the way the first two games have played out. Back the Celtics at the line.
This game will much more closely resemble Game 1 than Game 2, and the result may be decided by which team can negotiate the final couple of minutes the best. There have been a lot of warning signs for the Bucks in the first two games, but with Antetokounmpo and Middleton both in terrific scoring form, they are a dangerous unit.
Middleton’s shooting will drop off at some point, but Antetokounmpo won’t slow down and will score 30-plus points in this game. Their defense will need to improve, but they’ll find a way to peg back the Celtics and record a 104-102 victory at home.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 9:30pm ET.