Game Preview: Celtics at Bucks
The Boston Celtics have a chance at their longest winning streak of the season, while the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to bounce back after theirs was snapped.
Perimeter play could be the difference in Saturday night's matchup in Milwaukee with a pair of Celtics guards shooting well and the Bucks reeling after being torched from deep Friday.
Boston (19-30) seeks a fourth straight victory after Friday's 107-96 home win against Philadelphia. The Celtics had their lead trimmed to three with fewer than eight minutes left after leading by as many as 26.
They put together a big first half for the third straight game, outscoring the 76ers 60-42. They outscored Denver 61-51 and New York 57-44 in the first 24 minutes of back-to-back victories.
But prior to the current winning streak, Boston had been just 6-6 when scoring 55-plus in the first half.
"You see how many leads we've blown early in the season. We're kind of used to it," said Jared Sullinger, who had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. "We know how to respond and we responded well."
Sullinger is averaging 19.3 points over the last three games.
Milwaukee (27-23) had its five-game winning streak snapped with Friday's 117-111 loss at Houston. The Bucks, who had recently notched wins against division leaders Portland and Toronto, gave up a season high-tying 15 3-pointers. The Rockets shot 50.6 percent from the field after Milwaukee had held its last three opponents to 41.9 percent or worse.
The Celtics rank in the league's bottom third with a 33.0 3-point percentage, but the Bucks have to be wary of Marcus Thornton and Avery Bradley. Thornton is 13 of 26 from deep over his last five games while Bradley is seven of 11 in his last three. Thornton is also 12 of 25 from beyond the arc in his last seven versus Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded a career high in points for the second straight game with 27 against Houston in addition to a personal-best 15 rebounds. Antetokounmpo, who scored 25 in Wednesday's win over the Lakers, is shooting 61.4 percent over his last six games after shooting 49.2 percent previously.
"The last two weeks, he's grown as a player and as a person," coach Jason Kidd said.
Meanwhile, Brandon Knight was 5 of 14 and is shooting 36.3 percent over his last nine games, an 8.8 percent drop-off from what he had been shooting on the season.
Though the Bucks got Ersan Ilyasova back Friday after a four-game absence due to a strained right groin, their front line remains depleted. Zaza Pachulia has missed five in a row with a strained right calf, while Kenyon Martin sat out his second straight game with a sore left ankle.
Larry Sanders served the 10th game of his minimum 10-game suspension Friday for substance abuse but is not eligible to return until he is in full compliance with the league's treatment program.
Kelly Olynyk remains sidelined for Boston due to a sprained right ankle.
The Celtics have averaged a plus-5.4 rebounding margin during their winning streak after previously being minus-1.0 on the season. Milwaukee owns a minus-5.2 margin over its last five games.
These teams split four meetings last season, though Boston has won five of seven in Milwaukee.
The Bucks are 5-8 on the second night of back-to-backs while the Celtics are 5-4 and have won three straight.