The Bucks are ruing a loss against the Nuggets on Sunday, in which they let an eight point lead slip in the final minute and ultimately lost in overtime. The 128-125 loss was their second consecutive overtime game after they defeated the Lakers 124-122 a couple of days earlier.
The loss could have major ramifications for a Milwaukee side currently locked in a three-way battle for the sixth seed in the east. Their 41-36 record is enough to have them firmly entrenched in the playoffs, but they will likely play the Raptors in the first round if the seedings stay as they currently are.
Another team the Bucks may face in the first round is the Celtics, who they will play on Tuesday night. Boston are two games behind the Raptors in second with a 53-23 record. They have recaptured their best form of the season in recent games, winning their past six games, the last two of which were against the Jazz and the Raptors.
Three keys to the game
Can the Bucks recover from their meltdown against the Nuggets? - The loss to Denver can’t be described in any other way. Eight points up with less than a minute to play, Milwaukee conceded five points in a row, before turning it over with under three seconds to go and immediately fouling on a three point shot. The game should never have gone to overtime, and will be a tough one to bounce back from.
Boston’s excellent form - The Celtics have returned to their best in the last couple of weeks. Their last two wins have been against two of the more in-form sides in the league in Utah and Toronto, while the week before they disposed of the unstoppable Trail Blazers and the Thunder. Milwaukee are not the same caliber of team as four of those the Celtics have beaten in the last two weeks, so the boys from bean town will be confident heading into this one.
Looking after the basketball - This will be key for the Celtics. The Bucks have scored 18.4 points off turnovers per game this season, more than all other sides in the NBA aside from the Thunder. Boston are generally pretty good in this area though, and against the Raptors turned it over just five times. No individual turned it over more than once in that game, and a similar performance will be welcomed against Milwaukee.
Matchup to watch
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs Al Horford - Horford and Antetokounmpo will both play minutes at the four and the five, and will likely spend a fair bit of time on each other. This All-Star matchup will be great to watch at both ends of the floor, with both players hugely influential defensively and offensively. Horford’s stats aren’t outstanding - he averages just 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, but his impact on the game goes well beyond numbers. He is one of the highest IQ players in the league, contributes to plenty of baskets in a way which doesn’t end up on the stats sheet, and is an instinctive defender. Antetokounmpo has a significant physical advantage over Horford, and his numbers reflect this. The Greek Freak is averaging a huge 27.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks, and will make Horford work hard at each 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 has been a huge factor in all three of Milwaukee’s games against the Celtics this season. He averaged a huge 35 points in these games, and shot 55.2% from the floor in these games. To go with that, he also contributed 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and a couple of steals for good measure.
The Bucks are favorites in this game, which they shouldn’t be. Boston have won six games in a row and are playing great basketball, and though they will be on the road, they will be able to cover the two point head start they have been given. Back the Celtics at the line.
This will be a close game, but the Celtics will ultimately be too strong for the Bucks. Giannis has taken a liking to Boston this season and will contribute over 25 points and ten rebounds, but Boston’s defense will still restrict the Bucks to a score below 100. On the back of an all-round performance from one of the most well-coached sides in the league, Boston will sneak over the line with a 103-99 win.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSNWI+ and NBCSB. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.