The Milwaukee Bucks have mystified some observers. We expected more from them last year against Toronto, and this year with a rapidly-improving young core.
Now a team that’s given the Celtics trouble in the past rides into town on a 3-game winning streak. They’ve added Eric Bledsoe, who brings energy and shooting and veteran savvy to a Bucks team that badly needed both.
(We’re discounting this season’s game two 108-100 loss to the Bucks, at least a little. It was a horrible back to back for the Celtics with the memory of Gordon Hayward’s gruesome injury less than 24 hours old, seared into their pia mater.)
Keys to the game
1. Make Giannis Antetokounmpo get more of his 30-plus points outside the paint. Easier said than done. But in the October loss, the Greek Freak put up 16 of his 22 attempts inside the paint, mot of those within 5 feet. He had 5 turnovers, too, though. Gotta make him into a play-maker.
2. Contain Bledsoe, Middleton, Brogdon, Snell without tons of help. The “without tons of help” part is critical. (See #1.) Even without Bledsoe, the “other Bucks” (non-Giannis) shot 25 of 54.
3. Team rebounding. The Celtics held their own in this department last time, narrowly losing the battle on the boards 45-43. With the addition of Bledsoe, there will be even more scramble situations.
4. Shoot better. A big problem in October was a .429 team shooting percentage (vs. the
Bucks at .500). Gotta give the Celtics a little bit of a pass for that game here, too. For most of the Celtics roster, this was a first-ever home game at the Garden. (Even Jayson Tatum shot only 3 for 7. But hey, the kid is 6 weeks older now 😉 ).
5. Win the 50-50 balls. For all that’s said about “make or miss league,” it’s also a get-easy-shots and get-more-of-them league. In the last matchup, the Celtics out-stole the Bucks 12-6…. a healthy stat that needs to continue. This is especially true given that Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to get his shots and hit a lot of them.
It’s not just the Greek Freak any more. Bledsoe is a deadly sidekick. This is a two-headed monster…. if not more.