Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics: Lineups, preview & prediction 4/24/18
After winning both games in Milwaukee, the Bucks face the Celtics for a pivotal Game 5 in Boston with the series tied at two.
The Milwaukee Bucks have successfully clawed their way back from a 2-0 series deficit to tie it all up with the top-seeded Boston Celtics. The Bucks nearly squandered a 20-point Game 2 lead, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s timely tip-in in the final seconds sealed the win. The Greek Freak had another strong game with 27 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while wingman Khris Middleton added 23 points and six boards. But just like in Game 3, the big difference-makers for the Bucks was the bench duo of Jabari Parker and Thon Maker. Parker had 16 points, seven boards, and five stocks (steals and blocks), while Thon Maker added eight points (two 3-pointers) with five blocks.
Despite a valiant second-half comeback, the Celtics came up just short in Game 4. Jaylen Brown had another excellent playoff performance with 34 points (his third new playoff career-high) on 13-of-24 shooting with five 3-pointers, eight rebounds, and three steals. Jayson Tatum added 21 points while Al Horford added 13 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. But for the second straight game, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris both struggled with their shot as they combined to go just 7-of-29 from the field.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage – Despite their stellar road record in the regular season, the Celtics did not have a great time in Milwaukee. They got absolutely blitzed in the first halves of both games as they were outscored by a total of 39 points. A return to the confines of the Garden with their raucous home fans should help the young Celtics get off to a quicker start and prevent falling into a huge hole so early in the game.
Point guard battle – The trip to Milwaukee had a huge effect on Rozier’s game. After playing so well in Games 1 and 2, the Celtics point guard shot a miserable 5-of-19 from the field for just 19 total points in the two games. His Bucks counterpart, Eric Bledsoe, wasn’t much better as he reverted back to his quiet self after a good Game 3. But if Rozier can return to completely outplaying Bledsoe like he did in the first two home games, the Celtics should be in good shape.
Bench production – As mentioned earlier, the Bucks bench’s sudden revival has helped swing this series. Parker and Maker have been absolutely outstanding, with Parker even playing some strong defense apart from providing his usual offensive production. The Celtics didn’t quite get that from their bench with Morris going just 6-of-22 in the two games. Perhaps a return home – not to mention the possible return of X-factor Marcus Smart, who’s now listed as questionable to play – could be just what the Boston bench needs to reenergize the team after back-to-back defeats.
Matchup to watch
Khris Middleton vs Jayson Tatum – Middleton has been every bit as valuable as Giannis in this series for the Bucks. The swingman is putting up 25.5 points, 6.5 boards, and 4.0 assists on a sizzling 61 percent shooting. With Bledsoe continuing to struggle, the Bucks can’t afford an off-night from Middleton as they go back on the road. His counterpart, Tatum, hasn’t been nearly as consistent, but he’s shown in this series that he’s also capable of coming up with a big performance if needed.
Bucks projected starting lineup
PG – Eric Bledsoe | SG – Tony Snell | SF – Khris Middleton | PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo | C – John Henson
Celtics projected starting lineup
PG – Terry Rozier | SG – Jaylen Brown | SF – Jayson Tatum | PF – Al Horford | C – Aron Baynes
The Bucks’ Big 2 of Middleton and Antetokounmpo have been remarkably consistent to deliver stellar fantasy production and figure to do so again. The big question is which other Bucks can produce besides them. Bledsoe has been a pretty big fantasy bust in this series. Parker and Maker have stepped up in recent games, but it remains to be seen if they can sustain those type of numbers, particularly on the road.
As for the Celtics, it feels like Rozier is bound for a bounce-back performance after his two poor games in Milwaukee. He topped 23 points in both games in Boston. The same goes for Marcus Morris, who couldn’t get it going offensively in Games 3 and 4.
The Celtics may have looked less than impressive in those two games in Milwaukee, but don’t count them out yet. Home-court advantage could yet prove to be a decisive factor, especially with their young players bound to play better in front of their own fans. Look for the Celtics to take this key Game 5 while covering the three-point spread.
The Celtics reclaim control of the series as they beat the Bucks in another closely contested affair, 107-102.
This game will be broadcast on NBA TV. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm Eastern.