Bucks – Celtics Preview: Can the Bucks extend their win streak to 8?

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The Bucks have been on a tear since the All-Star break, winning six straight games. They are currently 11-1 over their last 12 games and looked great against the Pacers, scoring 140 points without reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is the second matchup of the season between the two teams. The first meeting began the season for each team, where the Celtics won a buzzer-beater three-point shot by All-Star Jayson Tatum. The Bucks look to tie up the season series at one a piece.

Matchup Details

The Game: Boston Celtics (21-22) @ Milwaukee Bucks (28-14)

The Place: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Time: Wednesday, March 24th, 6:30 PM CT

In feed

Telecast: ESPN

The Likely Starters

Bucks: Jrue Holiday – Donte DiVincenzo – Khris Middleton – Pat Connaughton – Brook Lopez

Celtics: Kemba Walker – Marcus Smart – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Daniel Theis

Injury Report

Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) – questionable, PJ Tucker (ankle) – probable, Brynn Forbes (sprained right toe) – questionable, Rodions Kurucs (Health and Safety Protocols) – out

Celtics: Jayson Tatum (illness) – probable, Romeo Langford (Health and Safety Protocols) – out, Tristan Thompson (Health and Safety Protocols) – out

What to know about the Celtics

The Celtics have slowly fallen from a top-four seed in the East to barely in the playoffs as the eight seed (21-22). They could be without their top scorer, Jayson Tatum, for this away game. Boston played well against the Grizzlies Monday night but were unable to get the win. They shot 52% from the field and 48% from the three-point range. If the Celtics shoot like that again tonight, they could give the Bucks fits. Where the Celtics struggled on Monday was at the line, shooting only 62%.

Since the All-Star break, the Celtics have gone 2-5, with wins only against the Rockets and the Magic. The offense is average 113.7 points per game (which would rank 8th best in the league) over this stretch. Their defense is allowing 113.8 ppg (which would rank 8th worst in the league). Boston’s offense has performed well, but defensively they have struggled. They are looking to get their season back on track by beating one of the top-three seeded Eastern teams on Wednesday night.

What to know about the Bucks

The Bucks are playing some of their best basketball since the All-Star break, starting 6-0. They are coming off a massive win against the Pacers while missing Giannis. Milwaukee is averaging 126.8 ppg over since the All-Star break (which ranks best in the league by 6 points), while only allowing 112.2 ppg (roughly what they’ve been allowing all season). The defense could still use some improvement, but the rest of the season looks bright, with Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo looking more like their 2019 selves on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bucks have struggled to defend against the 3-point shot this season, but since the All-Star break, they have only allowed opposing teams to shoot 34.5% (83/240), which ranks 3rd best in the league.

Keys to the Game

Guarding the 3pt shot

If the Bucks can guard from the three-point line as they have the last six games, they can take this game right from Boston. The Celtics have great shooters, as six of their players are shooting over 38% from the arc. For the Bucks to succeed, they cannot allow the Celtics to get open shots because they will get hot, and it will make it very hard for the Bucks to stay in the game. The same can be said for the Celtics, as the Bucks are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. As we saw in Monday’s game against the Pacers, when the Bucks are hot from outside, they can’t be stopped (61% from 3 on 39 attempts).

Who will step up?

Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots over Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter at American Airlines Arena on December 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Both Giannis and Tatum are questionable for Wednesday’s game, meaning both teams could be without their best players. The question remains, who will step up for each team? We saw against the Pacers that Holiday stepped up in a big way, but the entire roster stepped up even more to propel the Bucks to their second highest scoring output this season. Jeff Teague and Jaylen Brown both tried to step up for the Celtics on Monday, but it wasn’t enough. With Kemba Walker back in the line-up, will he be enough to take down the Bucks?

Players to Watch

Pat Connaughton

Bucks: Pat Connaughton
GETTY IMAGE

In a surprise twist, the Bucks started Pat Connaughton to replace Giannis. If Giannis is still out, we will probably see Pat in the starting lineup again as the Celtics run a small-sized starting lineup. In Connaughton’s first start of the season, he tied his season-high with 20 points, along with grabbing nine rebounds, shooting 85% from three, and 78% from the field. If he continues this level of performance, look for Pat to get his first double-double of the season Wednesday night.

Kemba Walker

Celtics: Kemba Walker
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kemba Walker returns to the Celtics’ lineup after taking a rest day on Monday. He has struggled since the All-Star break, but the Celtics will need him to step his play up, especially since Jayson Tatum may not play. Kemba hasn’t scored over 16 points since March second. Look for him to try and find his groove in Wednesday’s game. The Celtics will find it hard-pressed to win on Wednesday if Kemba continues to struggle.

Prediction: Bucks 130 – Celtics 123

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