The Milwaukee Bucks are faced with their first “true test”
When someone tells you something is not a “big deal” and that you shouldn’t “worry”, that usually means you should think the opposite: it is a big deal and maybe you should worry a little.
How this game plays out will be a tone-setter for the Bucks’ season. It is a big deal. It is ok to worry a little if Milwaukee gets rolled.
Here on this website, Sarah Witherspoon discussed how it’ll be an emotional game and reunion for Milwaukee with former Bucks star Jrue Holiday.
Here we go:
The (10-4) Milwaukee Bucks take on the (11-3) Boston Celtics at 6:30 CST on ESPN. This is a major first “test” for Milwaukee. Of course the Damian Lillard vs Jrue Holiday match-up will get a ton of the headlines as it should. But the Jaylan Brown’s and Malik Beasley’s will probably matter just as much.
Vegas has the Bucks at a 30% chance to win and 6 point underdogs. The over/under is 235.
For the Milwaukee Bucks to win they will need to be able to do three important things.
Milwaukee Bucks keys
Keep Rebounding the Ball as a Team
The Milwaukee Bucks have been a team that continues to search for an identity. Last season they were a team that rebounded the ball well (they led the NBA in team rebounding) and then transitioned that rebound out to Giannis who would drive and kick to an open three point shooter. Or he’d just take the ball in and score.
This year has certainly been different.
Now Milwaukee is inconsistent in how they approach team-rebounding. They are 21st in the NBA in terms of team rebounding (42.5) Last season they had 48.6 team rebounds a game, good for best in the NBA.
Against the Wizards on Monday Night the team had a season high 55 team rebounds. That was more like it. Against Dallas (also a nice win) the team only had 41 total team rebounds. Giannis had 15. Again, it was not about rebounding the ball even though when Milwaukee does that they tend to win, it was about controlling the glass.
If you control the glass you can control the tempo of the game. If Milwaukee can outrebound a Celtics team that is currently second in the NBA in team rebounding (47.4 a game) that would bode really well for the Bucks.
Body Up New Celtic Kristaps Porzingis
The teams are very different from the teams that played last year. Paradoxically they still feel the same. Milwaukee still has Giannis; the Celtics still have Jason Tatum. And now they have 7’2” star. He is averaging 19.5 points a game.
Porzingis leads the team in blocks (1.9 a game). Brook Lopez has him there (3.0 blks a game).
You would have to think a combination of Lopez and Portis could work to shut him down. Portis, especially, will be an interesting match-up. Porzingis likes to try to post up smaller players. Portis may be smaller but he certainly can defend and will certainly bring some energy to this test.
It’s Time to Shine
The Bucks have a global star in Giannis and a new global star in Damian Lillard. Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez are great players as well. Giannis averages 30 points a game. Let’s see if he can go over that number.
That goes for the role players too. Pat Connaughton and MarJon Beauchamp could stand to sink a few threes. If Portis or Beasley can step out with a solid double-double the Bucks have a great chance.
The Opponent: The Boston Celtics
The Celtics had a strong season last year, losing in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat in seven games. Because of that loss, just like how the Milwaukee Bucks lost to The Heat, the team decided to shake things up a little.
Gone are Marcus Smart and Grant Williams: in is Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. To get Porzingis the Celtics gave up the 2023 1st round pick, Marcus Smart, and Mike Muscala. Muscala, for whatever reason, seemed to give the Bucks fits last year.
Speaking of giving teams fits, Jason Tatum is having another MVP caliber season. He is averaging 28/8/4. He is also in a big media market on a team that got off to a hot start. (Thank you Bill Simmons)
Jaylen Brown is also playing well. (21/5/3) Along with Tatum, Brown plays a nice role as a slasher/scorer.
Derek White is the new “spark plug” for Boston. He starts and makes up a good defensive back court with Holiday. White is also a point guard which means Boston plays with a true shooting guard. But when you have Tatum and Brown that is actually a good thing.
AL Horford is still around and playing well. He has started in three games this year. Boston is not an incredibly deep team. They are still working, like Milwaukee is, to figure out a strong bench rotation.
Boston so far is the best rebounding team in the NBA ( 47.4 a game). They also are fourth in the NBA in points scored (120.1).
Things to tell your buddies as you are watching the game
- The Milwaukee Bucks have really shot the three well lately. They are now 6th in the NBA in team three point shooting percentage.
- The Celtics lead the all-time series 116-110.
- The Celtics record, all-time, is 3581-2465. They have the most recorded wins in NBA history.
- When the Celtics do win at home, one of two songs is usually played: “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith or “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees.
- The Celtics are one of the NBA’s original eight teams. The other seven were the New York Knicks, Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors, the Providence Steamrollers, the Baltimore Bullets, the Chicago Stags, the Washington Capitols and the St. Louis Bombers.
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