Watch It! - Celtics at Bucks
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks meet at 8 p.m. tonight at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Missing Point Guards
If you want to watch two starting point guards duel it out tonight, you may want to look elsewhere. Both of these teams will be missing their starting floor general.
Marcus Smart of the Celtics will miss his third consecutive game due to a sprained left big toe. He has been on the mend ever since Boston fell to the Spurs on Nov. 1.
Michael Carter-Williams, meanwhile, will miss his fourth straight contest with a sprained left ankle. He hasn’t played since suffering the injury on Nov. 2 against Brooklyn.
Expect to see Isaiah Thomas start in Smart’s place for Boston, and second-year point guard Tyler Ennis to start in place of Carter-Williams.
Bucks Finding Their Way, But…
Many expected the Milwaukee Bucks to be a power in the East. After losing their first three games of the season, they’re beginning to look the part.
Milwaukee has ripped off a four-game winning streak since falling to the Raptors on Nov. 1. Most impressive about the winning streak is that they racked up the four victories in a span of only six days.
Milwaukee’s winning streak, however, is accompanied by the obligatory “but.” These four wins were racked up against three teams – Brooklyn (twice), Philadelphia and New York – that could be considered to be among the worst squads in the entire league. And on top of that, fact, none of the victories were by more than eight points. In other words, the Bucks struggled against teams they shouldn’t struggle against.
Wins are wins, and every NBA team will take any victory it can get its hands on. But take caution jumping on Milwaukee’s bandwagon as a result of its current streak.
Overcoming Length and Athleticism
One Achilles’ heel for Boston this season has been turnovers. It ranks 27th in the league in that category with an average of 17.2 turnovers per game.
Reversing that trend will be incredibly difficult tonight. Milwaukee is one of the longest and most athletic teams in the league; the only player in its starting lineup who is shorter than 6-foot-8 is Tyler Ennis, who stands in at 6-foot-3. And the only reason Ennis is in the lineup is because the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams is sidelined. The Bucks also offer several long and athletic bench players for their respective positions, including John Henson, Miles Plumlee, Johnny O’Bryant III and Greivis Vasquez.
Milwaukee is tied with Utah and Indiana for the sixth-highest rank in the league in turnovers forced per game, at 16.3 a night. The Celtics know full well that they will need to be intelligent with the ball tonight and limit their turnovers in order to win.
Parker is Back
The most intriguing piece of Milwaukee’s impressive 2014-15 season, which included a true challenge to Chicago during the playoffs, was not necessarily the success it showcased on the court. Instead, it was the fact that the Bucks were so successful despite playing without No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker for nearly the entire season.
Parker tore his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 15 of last season, just 25 games into his rookie year. Many viewed Parker as the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s future when he was chosen second overall in last year’s Draft.
Now Parker is back, meaning the Bucks’ young core can now try to take another step together in the Eastern Conference. He has played in only three games this season and had minimal success during those contests. He enters Tuesday’s contest with averages of 5.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
Still, you can bet that Boston will respect him. The C’s know how immensely talented he is.
Remember when the Celtics were one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA through the first week of the season, making only 40.2 percent of their shots and 29.2 percent of their 3s? That seems like forever ago after Friday night’s drubbing of the Washington Wizards.
Boston’s offense was unbelievable during that contest while scoring 118 points. The scoring was particularly impressive during the first quarter, when it dropped a season-best 40 points.
Four Celtics scored at least 16 points during the contest, highlighted by 21 points from Jared Sullinger. All in all, the team shot 45.4 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from long range.
Based upon the final three months of last season, when the C’s were one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, it was a foregone conclusion that they would find their stride this season. Now the question is, can they maintain the momentum they built four nights ago and light up the Bucks with consistent offense in Milwaukee?