Watch It! - Bucks at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Milwaukee won Saturday night’s meeting between these two teams because of its starting backcourt. The Celtics had no answers for O.J. Mayo (22 points) and Brandon Knight (20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists).
“When those guys get going, you can throw everything else out the window,” Brad Stevens said after the 92-85 loss. “They are a tough team to stop.”
The challenge for Boston tonight is to prevent Mayo and Knight from hitting their stride. The brunt of that task falls on the shoulders of Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley, who partner as the starting backcourt for the Celtics. They were drastically outplayed the other night and should take that fact personal.
How will those Crawford, Bradley and their teammates respond to this challenge? The answer may determine the outcome of tonight’s game.
Play with Tempo
There’s a reason why Brad Stevens wants his team to play in transition as often as possible. This group of Celtics is made up of young and athletic players, highlighted by Jeff Green and Avery Bradley, who excel in the open court. On Saturday night, however, their transition offense was nearly nonexistent.
Boston scored just four fast break points on four shot attempts Saturday night in Milwaukee. Now, it is true that fast break points aren’t a true indication of a team’s transition points, but anyone who watched Saturday’s game understands that Boston didn’t get out and score in the open court.
The C’s need to change that tonight. They need to get stops on defense and let their young legs get out and run.
Feed Sullinger in the Halfcourt
Even if the Celtics play transition basketball, they’ll still need to operate efficiently in the halfcourt. Jared Sullinger is their savior in that regard.
Sullinger has been fantastic at the offensive end over his past seven games. He’s averaging 15.4 points per game and shooting 48.4 percent from the field during that stretch. More importantly, he’s shooting 53.6 percent on 2-pointers.
The C’s went to Sully on the block during Saturday night’s game and that decision paid off to the tune of 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Milwaukee couldn’t stop him, so it only makes sense to go back to him on the regular yet again tonight.
Boost from the Bench
Stevens has talked all season about the ‘evenness’ on this Celtics team. He claims that there is not much of a drop off in talent from 1-13 on this roster.
That notion has been accurate for the majority of this season but it did not hold true Saturday night. Boston’s bench tallied just 13 points against the Bucks, and the four scored by MarShon Brooks came over the final four minutes when the game was essentially out of hand.
A meager performance like that from the bench makes it very difficult for the C’s to win games. One of their strengths is their depth and balance. That has to show through on the box score.
Lee’s Possible Return
Courtney Lee has missed Boston’s last two games with a sprained left knee. That may not sound like a major issue for the C’s, seeing as Lee is a reserve, but it’s more important than you might think.
Lee has been Boston’s top shooter this season, and in nearly every category. He leads the team in field goal percentage at 51.0 percent. The next-closest player is Kris Humphries, a big man, at 49.0 percent. Lee also leads the C’s in 3-point percentage (minimum of three attempts) at 48.0 percent, which is far ahead of Jeff Green’s second-best rate of 36.8 percent.
The Celtics practiced on Monday and Lee took part in the session. He spoke about his injury following his post-practice workout.
“In practice today I was able to run the whole time,” Lee said after Monday’s practice. “I’m feeling it just a little bit, but not as much as other days.
“It’s up to coach if he puts me out there or not.”
Based on what we heard on Monday, it sounds as if Lee is ready to go. Expect to see him and his fantastic shooting back on the floor tonight.