Milwaukee looks to keep pressure on Toronto at top of Eastern Conference

SportsBlenderNBA Thu, 20 Dec 2018

Last season the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Thus far this season, the Bucks are second in the Eastern Conference compared to fifth for the Celtics.  In the first meeting between the teams on November 1, the Bucks won as home favorites.

Friday the teams meet again, this time on Boston's home court. The Celtics are 18-12 and had won eight straight before dropping their last two.   Milwaukee is on the heels of the Toronto Raptors for best record in the conference. They are 21-9 overall, 7-6 on the road and 7-3 over their last ten games.

Very impressive on the offense end, Mliwaukee is first in the NBA in scoring behind MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is avearging 26.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, and six assists per game. In addition, he's hitting nearly 60 percent of his shots from the floor, while Khris Middleton averages 17.6 per game and drains 39.5 percent from three-point range.

The Bucks have several ways to hurt you offensively. Malcolm Brogdon is the team's sharpshooter, connecting on 47 percent from beyond the arc, while Eric Bledsoe adds 16 and distributes the ball effectively.

Milwaukee is also tops in the league in rebounding and a solid 12th in points allowed. The one weakness is ball control, as they are 18th in turnovers. Boston's best shot at a win is keeping constant defensive pressure, forcing the Bucks into mistakes.

The Celtics enter 12th in scoring offense, but have one of the best defenses in the NBA, ranked fourth in fewest points allowed.  Ranked fifth in fewest turnovers committed, Boston makes the most of their possessions.

Kyrie Irving heads an well-balanced offensive attack full of long range shooters. He is averaging 22.7 points per game. Jayson Tatum contributes nearly 17 points per contest, while Marcus Morris adds 15. All three are shooting at least 40 percent from three-point range, causing match up problems for most teams.

Another sign of solid teamwork, Boston is ninth in rebounding, but no player is averaging more than 6.5 rebounds per night. However, Al Horford, Tatum and Morris all grab over six per game.

This is a tough match up to call, and is pretty much a toss up. It should be a tight contest decided late.  I gave a slight edge to the Bucks, but clearly don't be surprised if the Celtics come away with a win, preventing the Bucks from inching closer to the Raptors.