The Boston Celtics face the Milwaukee Bucks in one of the Eastern Conference Semifinal match ups. The winner will take on the winner of the series between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams come in off a sweep, the Celtics over the Pacers and the Bucks over the Pistons.
Boston went 49-33 during the regular season with a 21-20 mark on the road and 28-13 at home. The Bucks were the best team in the NBA with a 60-22 record, 33-8 at home and 27-14 on the road. Boston took down the Pacers by an average of 7.5 points per game, while the Bucks dominated the Pistons by 24 per game.
Examining the teams statistically, the Bucks dominated offensively and on the boards, ranked 1st in both categories, while ranked 2nd in 3pt attempts per game. Solid in nearly every phase of the game , the Bucks were 7th in assists, 11th in fewest points allowed and 12th in turnovers. Boston ranked in the top ten in four major statistically categories, assists, points allowed, turnovers and 3pt efficiency. However, they were merely average offensively and in the bottom third in rebounding.
During the regular season, the Bucks took two of three meetings between the teams, winning by scores of 98-97 and 120-107. The lone Boston win was by the score of 117-113. All told the Bucks outscored Boston by an average of 3.3 points per game.
The Celtics displayed a balanced attack against Indiana, with six players averaging in double-digits scoring, lead by Kyrie Irving's 22.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. Jayson Tatum has been a good second option, averaging 19.3 points, while Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris are adding a combined 25 per game. Al Horford lead the team in rebounding, as he did in the regular season, hauling in 10 per game. The Celtics connected from long range with regularity, hitting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee was lead as they were all season by Giannis Antetokounmpo, dropping 26.3 points and 12 rebounds per game in the series against the Pistons. The surprise for the Bucks was the play of Eric Bledsoe, who upped his game, averaging 19.3 points, while Khris Middleton dropped 19 per game. Brook Lopez was a big defensive presence inside, leading the team in blocks at 3.5 per game. The team was also solid beyond the arc, dropping 37 percent.
The key to this series could come down to Boston's ability to knock down their perimeter shots and doing a decent job on the boards. Giannis will get his points, so not letting Milwaukee get hot from long range will also be a factor in the series. Boston must take care of their home court and try to steal one in Milwaukee. The Bucks are extremely tough as home and will be unlikely for Boston to win two on the road. The best bet is for a tough, grind it out series with the Bucks winning in seven.