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Jaylen Brown plans to suit up for Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon as he pushes through a right hamstring strain.
Boston’s star wing tightened up toward the end of Game 4 of the first round against Brooklyn Monday night and has been managing the injury with the Celtics’ strength coaches throughout the week. According to head coach Ime Udoka, Brown has looked fine in practice over the past few days and Brown, himself, appears optimistic moving forward.
“I did some tests this week,” Brown said Saturday afternoon, “got some treatment, should be ready to roll for tomorrow.”
The same injury has flared up on several occasions over the course of Brown’s career, including a couple of times toward the beginning of the season. He initially aggravated it in early November, forcing him to miss two-plus weeks. He then played five games before re-straining it in the first week of December, causing him to miss another week-plus.
Since returning on Dec. 13, Brown hasn’t mentioned any sort of discomfort in that region. He also doesn’t seem nearly as concerned by this flare-up, though he’s still remaining cautious knowing his injury history.
“Anytime you're dealing with a lingering injury, you want to be precautious and careful,” said Brown. “But I think I'm ok … This one is on the lower end of the spectrum, so I’ll be fine.”
One of the key factors that helped Brown in his recovery was having so much time off between Game 4 of the first round and Game 1 of the second.
“It was essential,” Brown said of the five-day break. “It was great being able to have a couple days, especially trying to get healthy and make sure everything was taken care of. It was essential to have a couple days off. So credit to us taking care of business so we can have that.”
The Celtics hope that having a fully healthy group can help them take care of business against a Bucks team that is missing Brown’s counterpart, Khris Middleton.
Milwaukee’s three-time All-Star sprained his left MCL in Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls and has been ruled out for all of Round 2. Filling a 20-point-per-game void should be challenging, but the Bucks proved during their 4-1 series win that they have several players who are capable of stepping up.
Ime Udoka listed Grayson Allen and Jrue Holliday as two players who will likely up their intensity on the offensive end, and noted how the Bucks can still spread the floor extremely well even without their highest-volume sharpshooter.
“They were running some different things with Middleton being out, but the one thing I did notice was the spacing,” said Udoka. “It seems like they have a lot more spacing. They have shooters kind of spread everywhere -- not that Middleton is not a shooter, but he does have his specific plays that they run to, and it’s more so open court, and so that presents a different challenge, opening the court up. But obviously, we know how big a part of their team that he is. We have to shift our focus to some other guys that are playing extremely well for them.”
Of course, the main guy that Boston will be focusing on is two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Celtics will be throwing as many bodies on him as possible, which makes Brown’s anticipated presence all the more vital.
“Just throw different bodies at him and try to be physical, be aggressive,” Brown said of the defensive approach. “But Giannis is one of one. He gonna be who he is. He's gonna come out and try to dominate the game. We gotta match that intensity and be great defensively, and that's what we look forward to doing.”
With Brown expected to be in the mix, Boston’s league-leading defense should be at full force as they take on the defending champs.