- The Milwaukee Bucks won 60 games in the regular season, including 45 by double digits
- The Bucks won the regular-season series with the Boston Celtics, 2-1
- Both teams swept their first-round opponents
Although we’re not through the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs just yet, we already know one of the second-round matchups. The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks will face the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals and they’re a huge favorite.
Is Milwaukee the best bet or can the Celtics bounce the Bucks from the playoffs for the second straight year?
Celtics vs Bucks Series Price
|Team||Celtics vs Bucks Series Odds|
Bledsoe, Middleton the Keys to the Bucks’ Success
We know that Giannis Antetokounmpo is an absolute stud. However, this playoff series will be won or lost by the auxiliary players. Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton have been excellent all season and they’ll have to raise their game to another level versus Boston.
We know from last year that Middleton is capable of playing effective basketball against Brad Stevens’ defense. In their 2018 playoff series, he averaged 24.7 points per game while shooting 59.8% from the field and a ludicrous 61% from three.
The Celtics used Marcus Smart on him in the regular season, but Smart is out. Middleton has a chance to feast.
— NBA Deutschland (@NBA_de) April 18, 2019
As for Bledsoe, he was the opposite last postseason. He scored less than 10 points in three of the seven games, and he averaged just 11.3 points per contest in the three regular-season meetings this year.
If the Bucks have both of these guys clicking, I’d expect this to be a quick series. But given how well Boston typically plays defense, I would expect one of these guys to be quieted, which could make this a series.
Bucks Were the More Dominant Team in the Regular Season
Forget the standings for a minute, take a look at some of the cold, hard numbers. The Bucks not only won 60 games this season – the most in the NBA – 45 of those wins were by double figures.
Only seven other teams have ever done that, and every single one of them won the title.
Remember that the Celtics Swept an All-Star Less Indiana Team
The Celtics are coming off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers, which might look good on paper but it wasn’t that impressive.
Indiana’s offense has been crippled by the loss of All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and that was evident in the opening round. The Pacers were held under 100 points in three of the four games, averaging a scant 91.8 points per game.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 21, 2019
The Bucks led the NBA in points per game at 118.1, while Indiana had just 108.0 (22nd). That’s how drastic the contrast is between these two opponents.
Despite playing stifling defense, Boston’s average margin of victory against Indiana was only 7.5 points per game. They’re going to get blown off the map against Milwaukee unless they find their offense.
Bucks Want Revenge
Remember that these two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Celtics – even without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward – won the series in seven games. Neither team won on the road.
However, as the story has been all season long, the Celtics offense hasn’t really been any better with their stars back.
If Irving can average 25 points per game a night, Hayward gives them around 20, and Jayson Tatum continues to average 19.3 points per game like he did in the opening round, the Celtics will have a shot. What’s likely closer to the truth is that we’ll see the Celtics struggle on offense.
Because, as good as the Bucks are at the offensive end, they are even better on defense. Milwaukee ranked fourth in the league in Adjusted Offensive Rating, and second in Adjusted Defensive Rating, behind only Utah.
Giannis highlights are even better in slow-mo ? pic.twitter.com/t0T6sIcFx8
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 23, 2019
With Marcus Smart out, the Celtics defense will take a hit. They also don’t have a rim protector either. I’m not sure how they’ll guard Giannis and, if they have to double-team him, Milwaukee (which made the second-most three-pointers per game this season) will have an abundance of open looks.
I like the Bucks to win in five or six games here.
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