Bucks 113, Celtics 101: Last word

BOSTON | The Milwaukee Bucks took a 3-1 series lead over the Boston Celtics with a 113-101 win Monday night.

Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

This might be the best game of Antetokounmpo’s playoff career. He finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Giannis is the leader of this team and when he’s on his game there is nobody that can stop him.

Play of the game: Fans in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a basketball town. There is no doubt about it. The Bucks’ fans have been terrific all season and are turning it up in the playoffs.

The good: Bench in the third quarter

The most crucial stretch of the game happened in the third quarter when Giannis and Khris Middleton each picked up their fourth foul. Led by George Hill, the bench wouldn’t only keep the Bucks in the game but would stretch the lead.

“If we’re honest if you see Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Khris (Middleton) go to the bench you’re concerned, but certainly have a ton of confidence like we were just talking about that that group can play,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They can really guard, and I think enough of them are finding ways to play offensively and you felt it kind of change and that maybe they were not only hold it tight but extend it. We actually rode them a little bit longer; we were thinking about bringing Khris or
Giannis back and that group just finished the quarter really well.”

“Its amazing. We’ve got 12 guys on the team and they are all great NBA players,” Giannis added. “It’s amazing to see that the bench can keep playing hard, keep defending hard and set the tone for us. I think I was on the bench, Khris (Middleton) was on the bench, (Eric) Bledsoe was on the bench and they’ve done a great job all season, they’ve been the difference maker in this series. It’s great to have guys that can step up like that from the bench.”

The not so good: The three ball

Milwaukee was just 8-37 (21.6%) from downtown on Monday. It was an uncharacteristic night for them, but they were able to overcome all the missed three-pointers. It did help that Boston was almost just as bad from beyond the arc. They converted on just 9-41 (22%) of their threes.

Stat of the game: 37.8% shooting for the Celtics

The Bucks stifling defense bothered Boston throughout the game, especially in the second half. Their rotation was terrific always putting a hand in the face of the open shooter. Defense has been their staple all season long and it came through in the biggest game of the year so far.

What they said:

Budenholzer on the win…

I think the competitiveness of the group. For four quarters I think we’ve been down in the first quarter every game and second quarter we find a way to ride it a little bit, the third and fourth quarter just defensively I think our activity, our togetherness is just fueling everything we do. I thought a huge stretch of the game with Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Khris (Middleton) both on the bench, as two of our leaders, the way that group was able to play on both ends and I think send us into the fourth quarter with a four or six point lead that was just a huge stretch for us and our group. I’m really pleased with the way they played, and I got to get ready to go back to Milwaukee and prepare and do it again.

Hill on taking two straight on the road…

It means we’re resilient. We knew they were going to be a hard fought battle. We knew they were going to take one of the best punches. We knew that we may get calls, we may not get calls. We said it before the game, just play through every whistle, stay together when they go on their run, and I think from one through the fifteenth guy, we did that.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens on how they approach Game 5

It’s win or go home.  You do the same thing you’ve been doing all along.  You play the next possession to win it and that’s it.  You focus on that.  It takes a lot of mental fortitude.  It takes a lot of mental toughness.  It reveals a lot.  I’m looking forward to that challenge.  We don’t want to be in this position but we are and we’ve got to go to Milwaukee and do everything we can to give ourselves another chance to play here on Friday night.

In case you missed it:

*Milwaukee scored 113 points, marking the third straight game in which Boston surrendered at least 100 points. The Celtics held their opponent to fewer than 100 points in four of their first five playoff games in 2019.

*Milwaukee outscored Boston, 33-23, in the third quarter and limited the Celtics to 7-for-21 shooting (1-11 3-PT) in the period. The Bucks have outscored the Celtics by an average of 13.3 points in third quarters over the last three games.

*Milwaukee’s bench outscored Boston’s reserves by 25 points (32-7). The Bucks also held advantages in points in the paint (66-44) and fast break points (22-13).

*Boston’s starting unit combined to score 94 of the team’s 101 points on 42.5% shooting. Kyrie Irving (23 points) and Al Horford (20 points) combined for 43 points.

What’s next?

The Bucks (3-1) will look to finish off the Celtics (1-3) in Game 5 on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum.

Bucks 123, Celtics 116: Last word

BOSTON | The Milwaukee Bucks took back homecourt with a 123-116 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 Friday night.

Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

What more can you say about the Greek Freak? His Game 1 performance feels like a distant memory. Giannis nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 32 points (8-13 FG, 16-22 FT), 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Aggressive from the start, Giannis lived at the free throw line attacking constantly throughout the night.

Celtics’ star Kyrie Irving was more than frustrated with the calls Giannis was getting. “Guy comes down almost six times in a row and gets free throws,” Irving said. “What are you really going to do? It’s slowing the game down. The run that you would hope to make in a quarter like that doesn’t happen. I mean, he shot 22 on the game. It’s getting ridiculous at this point. It’s just slowing the (expletive) game down.”

Giannis said that he’s going to keep being aggressive and get to the free throw line. Free throws are one thing he does need to improve on. He’s is just 34-50 (68%) from the foul line in this series.

Play of the game: Ersan did what?

Did you see that amazing block in the Bucks game last night? Yes, Giannis stuffed Irving at the rim. No, I’m talking about the “Turkish Hammer,” Ersan Ilyasova. A good defender, but not known for his shot-blocking, Ilyasova made Gordon Hayward think twice about driving to the rim against him again.

The good: The backup guards

George Hill and Pat Connaughton played big roles in Game 3. Coming off the bench, they sparked the Bucks and kept them afloat. Connaughton got going early with eight points on 3-3 shooting in the first quarter. He followed it up with three more points in the second finishing with 14 for the game. Add in a block, an offensive rebound and loads of energy, Connaughton did everything to help Milwaukee take a 2-1 series lead.

“Me and George Hill always talk about bench mob,” Connaughton said. “We’ve got to make sure we bring the energy every single night.”


It was said the Bucks would get good salary cap relief when they traded for Hill earlier in the season. Hill was out to show he was way more than that. He was the second-leading scorer for Milwaukee behind Giannis with 21 points (9-12 FG, 2-3 3PT). In a game where Eric Bledsoe couldn’t find any rhythm, Hill did more than enough to pick up the slack.

“It’s a recurring theme for, I guess, as long as I’ve known George; the more aggressive he is, the better he is,” Budenholzer said. That must be the mentality for everyone on this team. You don’t win playoff games by being passive. Hill and Connaughton were aggressive Friday night and were big reasons why the Bucks got the win.

The not so good: Free throws

The Bucks did a lot of things well but their performance at the free throw line was unacceptable. They did a great job getting to charity stripe but didn’t knock enough down. Milwaukee finished the night 24-36 (66.7%) from the foul line. Giannis had six of the team’s 12 misses. Bledsoe was also 0-4. All that matters is they got the win, but had it been a closer game we may have looked back at the free throw woes being the issue they lose.

The weird: Brown flushes on Giannis, again

Jaylen Brown continues to get the best of Giannis. He put him on a poster in Game 1. Brown converted on a beautiful spin and no-look shot against Giannis in Game 2. Again, in Game 3 he threw one down on the MVP candidate.


Stat of the game: 40

Just like Game 2, it was the third quarter that was the difference for the Bucks. They outscored Boston 40-31 in the third frame. The Bucks outscored the Celtics 51-34 in the first 16 minutes of the second half for a 106-90 lead. Milwaukee never gave the lead back.

“I just think ultimately they made a lot of plays in that quarter and we didn’t,” Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens said.

What they said:

Budenholzer on the win…

I think the defense and the togetherness as we worked our way through the game and again the third quarter stood out to me that we could get stops and we could get out and go. Guys coming off the bench like George Hill and Pat Connaughton, just fabulous tonight. The spirit of the group is in a good place and now the challenge is to keep it there and get ready for a couple days from now.

Khris Middleton on if they had something to prove against Boston this year…

I don’t think this year we came here to prove a point. It’s different seasons, different teams. We’ve been playing well on the road all year long. We’re not worried about who we’re playing against, really. It’s about us. We forgot about last year. We moved on from it.

In case you missed it:

*Giannis is the first Buck since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974 with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in an NBA Playoffs game.

*The win was Milwaukee’s first playoff win in Boston since May 13, 1987.

*The last time the Bucks won three playoff games in a row on the road was back in 1982 in Philadelphia, then a year later in 1983 getting two in Boston.

*Milwaukee tallied 123 points, matching its scoring output from Game 2 (90 points in Game 1). This is the first time this postseason that the Celtics have allowed 100+ points in consecutive games.

*The Bucks’ bench unit outscored Boston’s bench, 42-16.

*Milwaukee outscored Boston, 68-60, in the second half on 53.8% shooting. The Bucks shot 8-of-16 from beyond the arc over the final two quarters, after shooting 7-of-21 from three in the first half.

What’s next?

The Bucks (2-1) get set for Game 4 against the Celtics (1-2) in Boston on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00pm.

Bucks 123, Celtics 102: Last word

MILWAUKEE | Needing a win to avoid going to the east-coast down 2-0, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 123-102 on Tuesday.

Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Coming off one of his worst performances this season, Giannis played terrific in Game 2. He led the Bucks with a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. It was his second game of the playoffs with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds, and the fifth such game of his career.

“Usually, after a [bad] game and a bad loss at home, you get a little bit fed up and start hesitating,” Giannis said. “All I can do is trust my teammates, go back and look at the tape to see what I did right and wrong. I just came into Game 2 with the mindset of being aggressive and making the right plays.

Giannis looked like a completely different player. He was aggressive and attacked the paint time and time again. The Celtics sent him to the line 18 times. Also, Giannis looked to feed his teammates more. When Boston collapsed on him inside, he was ready to kick it out to the open man.

Needing to play with more effort was the theme coming out of practice Monday afternoon and Giannis led the way.

Play of the game: Greek Freak shimmy

If there is a weakness in his game it’s the long-ball, but Giannis hit two of them tonight and was feeling it after. But what he did after knocking one down in the face of Celtics’ center Aron Baynes is what got him the play of the game.


The good: Closing the third

Basketball is a game of runs. The Bucks went on their biggest run of the game to close the third quarter. They outscored Boston 24-4 in the final 7:41 of the frame. This is the stretch that really put the Celtics out of reach.

“To be honest with you, I thought we were competing and playing well defensively for the whole game,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The third quarter, maybe it was just a little bit of wearing them down or whatever it is, but we just stuck to what we were doing. Our guys were able to create some turnovers, create some misses, take care of the boards and get out and run. I thought the defense from the beginning was quality.”

Milwaukee did this a lot during the regular season. They can pull away late in games because their effort is usually there for a full 48 minutes. Boston looked worn down late in the third. The Celtics made careless passes which led to turnovers and missed several shots they normally make.

It all goes back to playing with effort and being themselves for the Bucks. They didn’t play hard enough in Game 1 according to every member of the team that was asked about it. That didn’t happen in Game 2.

The not so good: Slow start

The way Game 2 started was very similar to the way Game 1 started. Milwaukee had trouble knocking down their shots. They finished the quarter shooting 35% (7-20 FG). Giannis didn’t make a field goal but finished the frame with five points thanks to free throws.

Stat of the game: 20

All 12 members of the Bucks that saw action attempted at least one three-pointer. As a team they shot 47 of them, making an NBA Playoffs franchise-record 20.


Khris Middleton contributed the most from downtown as he hit seven of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc.

“We have to do it a lot better than we did,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s tough, he is an All-Star. He is one of the 12 best players in the East this year. He has had a good year and he has started that in the playoffs last year against us. We have to do a better job on him. We did not do a good enough job on him. He still might make it, but he got too many looks.”

What they said:

Budenholzer on the win…

Obviously, I think that’s more what we’re accustomed to seeing. I liked our spirit, our activity and our competitiveness up and down the roster. Giannis, Khris and Eric really set the tone. We just need to kind of capture that, take it to Boston with us and play that way out there.

Stevens on the loss…

I thought they dominated a lot in the first half and we were lucky to be down by four. They owned their space on both ends of the court better than we did. I thought our reaction to that was to settle on offense and it led to some run outs. Then it just steamrolled on us. They were great tonight, deserved to win, and we need to look at what we can do better. We knew they were going to be really good tonight and we talked about matching their urgency, meeting their urgency, but we didn’t do that and even in the first half you could see.

In case you missed it:

*This was the fourth game of the playoffs that the Bucks have won by 20+ points. The 21-point win also marked Milwaukee’s largest victory in a Conference Semifinal game since 1983 (116-95, Game 1 vs BOS).

*Milwaukee hauled in 54 rebounds as a team, tallying their fourth 50-rebound playoff game this postseason.

*The Bucks held the Celtics to 39.5% shooting on the night. This is the third time this postseason that Milwaukee has held its opponent to under 40% shooting.

*Pat Connaughton grabbed a playoff-career-high 11 rebounds, marking the first playoff game of his career with double-digit rebounds.

*The Celtics were led by Marcus Morris who finished the night with 17 points and matched his playoff-career-high with three three-pointers. This was his third time scoring in double figures this postseason.

*Boston also had Jaylen Brown (16) and Al Horford (15) score in double figures.

What’s next?

Next up the Bucks (1-1) head out to Boston to play the Celtics (1-1) in Game 3 on Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm.

Celtics 112, Bucks 90: Last word

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks dropped game one at home to the Boston Celtics 112-90.

Player of the game: Al Horford

Horford isn’t the Celtics’ best player, but he may very well be their most important player in this series. He didn’t finish with staggering numbers (20 points, 11 rebounds) but he made his presence felt on the defensive end.

He was assigned the match-up that most NBA players dread | Giannis Antetokounmpo. Horford was up for the challenge. He completely took Giannis out of his game using his length and strength to frustrate the Greek Freak in the paint. All three of Horford’s blocks came against Giannis.

Offensively, he keeps the defense honest and can knock down jumpers off pick-and-pops with Kyrie Irving. He is a match-up nightmare and a savvy veteran that Giannis is going to need to figure out because Horford made him look human.

“He was the Al Horford we all know and love,” Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said. “Knocking down shots, being able to space the floor, also taking advantage of smaller guys in the post and around the rim. Defensively, he was all over the place. [He] really did a good job on Giannis. I thought our team for the most part did a good job on him.”

Play of the game: Brown stuffs one on Giannis

Giannis is usually the one dunking on the opposition, but Celtics forward Jaylen Brown got the best of him Sunday afternoon.

The good: Finish to the first half

The Bucks had one terrific stretch when they looked like, well, the Bucks. They finished the second quarter on a 25-12 run which began with a 15-0 run. The bench played a big role in the first-half picking up the starters.

The second-unit scored 15 of the team’s 33 points in the second frame behind the hot shooting of Nikola Mirotic (9 points, 3-3 3 FG). George Hill finished the first half with nine points (4-5 FG). Hill and Mirotic really kept the Bucks in the game. If it wasn’t for them, game one could’ve been even uglier than it was.

Now, Milwaukee needs to figure out how to play like that for a full 48 minutes | something they did all regular season long.

The not so good: The starters

Milwaukee’s bench, except for Hill and Mirotic, didn’t play well either, but you rely on your starters to show up and produce in the playoffs. They didn’t on Sunday.

The Bucks’ starting five combined for 15-50 (30%) from the field. Giannis had one of his worst games to date. He finished with a team-high 22 points but was just 7-21 from the field. He also struggled from the free throw line converting on only five of his 10 attempts.

“Whenever I got in the paint and I (spun) or tried to change direction, a second guy was right there,” Giannis said. “I’ve just got to go watch tape. If they’re going to play like this the whole series, I’ve got to be able to make the right pass and trust my teammates to knock down shots.”

“Giannis, as great as he’s been this year, he hasn’t been perfect every night,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s hard on himself, so there’s probably some point where I’m just going to put my arms around him and tell him, ‘You’re going to be great.’ He’s been so good so many nights. Credit to Boston, they’re doing some things well, but I think Giannis will play better.”

Eric Bledsoe mirrored last year’s playoff performance. He finished with six points (1-5 FG) and four assists. Brook Lopez couldn’t find any success offensively, ending the game with three points (1-5 FG, 1-4 3PT).

Khris Middleton was the most consistent starter. He dropped 16 points (5-12 FG, 3-4 3PT), 10 rebounds, six assists and was a big contributor in Milwaukee’s run to end the second quarter.

Stat of the game: 22

Sunday’s 22-point loss to the Celtics was the team’s biggest loss this season. It was shocking to see, really. I picked the Bucks to win this series in seven games so I expected them to lose three to Boston, but I figured every game would be down to the wire.

“Well, they hit us in the mouth,” Hill said. “That was pretty surprising. But it’s the playoffs and you have to learn how to hit and get back up.”

If there is any good to take away from this loss is that whether a team loses by one point or 22 points, it’s still just one loss. The Celtics don’t get more wins for winning by 22 points.

What they said:

Budenholzer on the loss…

As a group, we’re going to have to be a lot better. Credit to Boston, individually and collectively, they played well today, and we didn’t. Between now and Tuesday, we’ll look at ways we can get better defensively and get better offensively. We look forward to being better Tuesday.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on their play in the second half…

In game one that we played Milwaukee this year, we were up by 15 in the fourth and by 10 minutes in the fourth it was a two-point game. Any little let-up and they just take advantage of it. We were fortunate to be up two at halftime and I thought we came out of the gates well in the second half and played well from there on out, but this is a hard team to play against and that wasn’t their best game, and we’re going to half to be awfully good on Tuesday. And, we know that.

In case you missed it:

*Giannis knocked down a playoff-career-high-tying three three-pointers, scoring 22 points with eight rebounds. This was his 14th career playoff game scoring 20+ points, including his third this postseason.

*Middleton tallied just his second career playoff double-double, as he finished the afternoon with 16 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

*Mirotic scored 13 points (5-9 FG, 3-4 3PT) with four rebounds, recording his 15th career playoff game scoring in double figures, and his second consecutive game.

*Irving tied his playoff-career-high of 11 assists and scored a game-high 26 points. This was Irving’s fifth playoff double-double of his career.

*Horford finished the afternoon with 20 points and 11 rebounds, marking his first 20-points/10-rebound game of the 2019 postseason.

*The Celtics also had Brown (19), Hayward )13) and Terry Rozier (11) score in double figures.

What’s next?

The Bucks (0-1) will look to even the series with the Celtics (1-0) in game two on Tuesday. Tip-off from Fiserv Forum is scheduled for 7:00pm.

Deer Milwaukee: April 27, 2019

On this week’s episode of Deer Milwaukee, Cody Grant shared his thoughts on the Milwaukee Bucks’ second round match-up against the Boston Celtics. He talked about what he expects from the series and gave his prediction on who moves to the conference finals. Plus, Kane Pitman stopped by to breakdown the series and talked about what he’s looking forward to and what he expects to happen.

0:51 | Bucks/Celtics second round analysis

14:02 | Kane Pitman



Google Play


Bucks 98, Celtics 97: Last word

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks overcame a slow start in their first game back from the All-Star break to hold off the Boston Celtics late in a 98-97 win at Fiserv Forum.

Player of the Game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Who else would it be? Giannis continued to show why he’s an MVP candidate. He came up huge in another big game finishing with 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. 19 of those 30 points came in the second half. Head coach Mike Budenholzer talked about how Giannis was able to take over during cold stretches on offense.

“He had several big baskets. It felt like a couple times they cut it to two, we came out, he got a big basket in the paint. I didn’t love us offensively tonight and Giannis was able to will us a couple of baskets that were big, kind of kept us afloat.”

Chase-down blocks are becoming a thing for the Greek Freak as well. He had two Thursday night including one on Jayson Tatum with under six minutes to go in the game. Giannis said that he thought he was going to get dunked on but that it was a winning play.

Play of the Game: Khris Middleton three for the lead

Middleton had a rough night on the offensive-end but came up with a clutch shot to give Milwaukee a three-point lead late in the game. He put up 12 points in the first half but was held scoreless until he knocked this one down.

The Good: Defense

Boston was held to 38.2% shooting. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford combined for 17-48 from the field. The Bucks had to finish the game on the defensive-end. With 3.5 seconds left, the Celtics had a chance to win it, but Irving failed to convert on a floater.

The not so Good: Offense

It was a sloppy game for both teams. The Bucks showed some rust coming off the All-Star break. They finished the game with 15 turnovers, including 10 in the first-half. They shot just 42% from the field which is under their season average (47.9%).

The weird: Shot clock violation

With under four seconds to go, Marcus Smart was able to tie up Giannis with 0.2 seconds left on the shot clock to force a jump ball. Giannis won by tipping the ball to Brook Lopez, but it was ruled a shot-clock violation because Lopez had possession of the ball. This set up the Celtics for a shot to win it.

Stat of the Game: 8

Nikola Mirotic made his debut for the Bucks. He finished with eight points in 14 minutes off the bench. He said that he felt great.

“I felt great. To be honest, a little bit nervous but the crowd showed me huge support and the teammates were great to me. For me the biggest thing was to win.”

There is no doubt that Mirotic fits this team perfectly. He is a versatile big-man that can space the floor and be a target for Giannis when he gets doubled in the lane.

In Case You Missed It:

*The win gave the Bucks the season series over the Celtics 2-1.

*Celtics forward Gordon Hayward did not play after spraining his right ankle during a workout on Tuesday.

*Milwaukee is 9-1 in their last 10 games.

What’s next?

The Bucks (44-14) host the Minnesota Timberwolves (27-30) on Saturday night.

No. 2 Boston Celtics vs No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks: Series preview

Tale of the tape

No. 2 Boston (55-27) vs No. 7 Milwaukee (44-38)

2017-18 head-to-head matchups: 2-2

10/18/17 | Milwaukee def Boston 108-100

10/26/17 – Boston def Milwaukee 96-89

12/4/17 – Boston def Milwaukee 111-100

4/3/18 – Milwaukee def Boston 106-102

It’s hard to take much away from any of the first three matchups between these two teams. Boston will be without guard Kyrie Irving for the entire series and guard Marcus Smart for at least the first six games. Both of those key players for Boston played in the first three games of the season-series, but not the fourth.

Jason Kidd was also the coach for Milwaukee in the first three meetings, but not the fourth, and guard Eric Bledsoe was a member of the Phoenix Suns for the first two, and Greg Monroe was a member of the Bucks for the first two, a member of the Suns when the teams met the third time, and wearing a Boston uniform for the final matchup.

So, yeah, quite a bit has changed for these two teams since the first battle in October.

Key players to watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo – This one is obvious. As Antetokounmpo goes, so go the Bucks. He’s going to be the best player on the floor in every game the Bucks play in this series. If Antetokounmpo struggles in this series the Bucks have no chance, even if Boston is shorthanded.

Al Horford – The Celtics will look at Horford to be a big piece offensively with Kyrie Irving shelved for the entirety of the playoffs. Horford has been consistently good this season, even if his performance has flown under the radar this year. Horford has been a key in the matchups against Milwaukee during the regular season. However, a considerable amount of the damage he did came with Thon Maker defending him. It would be a surprise to see Maker on the floor much, if at all, with the game’s result undecided.


Jabari Parker – He’s been looking more comfortable on the floor recently as he returned from the knee injury that robbed him of the end of the season last year and the first few months this season. If Parker can provide a punch offensively to take some pressure off Antetokounmpo and show a pulse defensively then the Bucks will be in good shape. It’s always interested to see how players respond to their first taste of the playoffs, and this marks the first time Parker has been healthy enough to play in a postseason game.

Jayson Tatum – If Kyrie Irving had missed the entire season, the world may be talking about Tatum as a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year. Since Irving was shut down for the season on March 11, Tatum has scored 17.1 points per game which has been second on the Celtics in that stretch. He’s also defended at a relatively high level for a rookie. Like Parker, Game 1 on Sunday will be his first taste of playoff action. He’ll need to play as well as he did in the regular season, or better, for the Celtics to have a chance in this series.


Brad Stevens – During the regular season the Celtics overachieved given everything that the team had to deal with. The injury to star forward Gordon Heyward on opening night, Irving missing as much time as he did, and relying on as many rookies as the Celtics have points towards this team finishing around the 40-win mark. Stevens is a tremendous coach and deserves great consideration for Coach of the Year for the job he did this year. If not for him, Boston wouldn’t have a shot in this series.

Joe Prunty – With Jason Kidd being fired in January, Prunty took over the team on an interim basis. He’ll get a chance to interview for the job following the season, but the sense around the league is that – barring something unforeseen – someone else will be the coach for Milwaukee next season. He’s done an OK job with the team as he’s had to balance injuries and easing Parker back into the game flow.


Game 1: Milwaukee @ Boston, 4/15, 12 p.m. CT, TNT

Game 2: Milwaukee @ Boston, 4/17, 7 p.m. CT, TNT

Game 3: Boston @ Milwaukee, 4/20, 8:30 p.m. CT, ESPN

Game 4: Boston @ Milwaukee, 4/22, 12 p.m. CT, ABC

Game 5*: Milwaukee @ Boston, 4/24, TBD, TBD

Game 6*: Boston @ Milwaukee, 4/26, TBD, TBD

Game 7*: Milwaukee @ Boston, 4/28, TBD, TNT

*denotes if necessary


If Boston were healthy, with a squad including Kyrie Irving and Gordon Heyward, this series wouldn’t be close. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have that.

The Bucks have two of the three best players in the series in Middleton and Antetokounmpo, and teams that can boast the advantage in that area rarely lose the series. While the Celtics have the advantage in coaching, the Bucks own it in talent.

Milwaukee fans have been waiting since May 20, 2001 to watch their team win a playoff series again. After nearly 17 years they’ll stop waiting on April 26.

Bucks in six.

Bucks and Celtics roster comparison

When the NBA playoffs begin, talent is often the deciding factor in the outcome of the series. That sounds silly, right? Every team that qualifies for the playoffs is obviously talented, but more often than not star power determines the winner.

One theory, which I believe to be true is that the team that has two (or more) of the three best players in the series comes out victorious roughly 90 percent of the time. Believing in that theory has led me to rank the players in groups from the bottom of each roster to the very best.

If these guys are seeing significant minutes, their team is in trouble

| D.J. Wilson | Milwaukee
| Thon Maker | MIL
| Jonathan Gibson | Boston
| Abdel Nader | BOS
| Guerschon Yabusele | BOS

These five make up the bottom of each roster. While Maker occasionally gets minutes, it’s probably not a good sign for Milwaukee if he’s on the court for more than 10 minutes in a game. The hope for Bucks fans is that he plays some garbage time minutes and that’s it.

Playable, but less is probably more

| Semi Ojeleye | BOS
| Brandon Jennings | MIL
| Matthrew Dellavedova | MIL
| Jason Terry | MIL
| Shabazz Muhammad | MIL
| Shane Larkin | BOS

This group of players will all likely see the floor in meaningful minutes, but they aren’t players that should be depended on to win a game. An outburst from any of these guys would be unexpected, but certainly welcome.

Rotational players that will likely see their minutes cut

| Aron Baynes | BOS
| Sterling Brown | MIL
| Tyler Zeller | MIL

Those three will all see the floor, and have been part of the rotation for their respective teams during the regular season. During the playoffs rotations are typical cut down and key players are asked to play heavier minutes. Those minutes need to come from somewhere, and it’s likely that these three see their minutes cut due to that.

Rotational players

| Greg Monroe | BOS
| Marcus Smart (inj)* | BOS
| John Henson | MIL
| Tony Snell | MIL
| Terry Rozier III | BOS
| Malcolm Brogdon | MIL
| Marcus Morris | BOS

This list is filled with guys that play meaningful minutes, or even start for their respective teams. The better they play, the better chance of winning their team has. None of them are going to carry the load, or be asked to, but the more they do, the better.

*Smart is out due to injury but possibly may return for a potential Game 7 if necessary, which is why he is listed. If not due to injury he would likely find himself higher up on the list, too.

Key pieces

| Jaylen Brown | MIL
| Jabari Parker | MIL
| Jayson Tatum | BOS
| Eric Bledsoe | MIL

At times, these players will be asked to lead their teams. The team that wins the series is going to likely win this battle. Brown and Tatum are two younger guys, in their second and first years, respectively. Bledsoe and Parker have more experience, although Parker has never played in the playoffs and Bledsoe has never been in a key role in a playoff series.

Top three players

| Khris Middleton – MIL
| Al Horford – BOS
| Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL

This is the category that bodes well for Milwaukee. If Boston had a fully-healthy roster this would be far from the case. But with the Celtics missing both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Heyward they only land one player in the top three.

The gap between Antetokounmpo and Horford for the first and second spot is relatively considerable as well. Antetokounmpo is one of the 10 best players in the NBA and Horford is probably somewhere between 25 and 30. With that being said Horford is criminally underrated as a player. He’s really good, but he’s not someone that a team can heavily lean on to win a playoff series, in my opinion.

Middleton has been inconsistent this season for Milwaukee. There’s no doubting that. But there have been times when he has been able to shine, scoring 30 or more points nine times, including two games of 40 or more this year.

The Bucks having two of the three best players in the series – and four of the top six – is crucial to them being picked by many as the winner of this matchup. If the Bucks are going to win, they’ll need Middleton to play as well as he did during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo to prove that he’s a top 10 player in the world.

Bucks drop to Celtics 96-89: Last shots

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks turned back the clock in the ‘Return to the MECCA’ game on Thursday night. Their 96-89 loss to the Boston Celtics was played at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, right across the street from their usual home, The BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee struggled to find consistency throughout the evening, trailing by as many as 12, and holding a lead as high as seven. The loss drops the Bucks to 3-2 on the young season. Boston moves to 3-2 as well with the win.

Here are 16 last shots for the 16 playoff appearances the Bucks enjoyed while calling the MECCA home from 1968-1988.

1. Milwaukee is a young team that struggled to find a consistent flow throughout the night offensively. There are going to be plenty more nights like this one as the season rolls on. Boston did a good job of containing Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half, limiting him to only 11 points, three rebounds, and four assists. Celtics’ forward Al Horford was able to force Antetokounmpo into some tough shots, disrupting the entire rhythm of the offense.

2. Milwaukee’s offense is at its best when it’s out in transition. There are times when the Bucks over dribble in the half court, and head coach Jason Kidd said that he thought Thursday was one of those nights. “We had some good looks, I just thought we over-dribbled,” Kidd explained. “I thought the ball just didn’t move tonight as it has in the first couple of games.”

3. Guard Malcom Brogdon agreed with what Kidd had to say about the ball movement after the game. “Just be unselfish. Just move the ball,” Brogdon answered when asked how the team can improve the ball movement. “We have to be conscious of that as the game goes on and shots stop to fall. We get stagnant. We have to know to move the ball and trust each other.”

4. After being pretty much contained in the first half, Antetokounmpo played better after the break.  He totaled 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the second half. It was there that he looked like the same player fans saw in the first four games.

5. Antetokounmpo’s final stat line for the night was 28 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He’s had a double-double in all five games so far on the season. He’s also been Milwaukee’s leading scorer in each contest. Antetokounmpo also had three steals and a block on the night.

6. Brogdon returned to action after missing the team’s win over Charlotte on Monday night. He didn’t look bothered at all by his ankle injury that kept him out of that game. Brogdon finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists. He played nearly 36 minutes, second to only Antetokounmpo, who was on the court for 41 minutes Thursday evening.

7. Forward Khris Middleton also had 15 points for Milwaukee, however he was rather inefficient, needing 16 shots to reach that mark. Middleton was 7 of 16 from the floor and only 1 of 3 from behind the arc. He needs to become more consistent shooting the basketball if the Bucks are going to be successful on the offensive end, especially when they struggle to break out into transition.

8. While it can be easy to pick on Middleton’s inconsistent shooting, Milwaukee did have a good night from the outside. The Bucks finished 11-25 from deep, which is a mark that they need to be around more often. If this team can knock down those shots, it gives Antetokounmpo much more room to operate near the basket.

9. A big reason that Boston was able to pull out the win over Milwaukee was the play of Horford. He was outstanding on the offensive end, and did a solid job defending Antetokounmpo. “Horford can move his feet,” Kidd said. “You’ve got to give him credit. They packed the paint and made it extremely tough on Giannis [Antetokounmpo].”

10. Offensively, Horford finished with a team-high 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. He shot 11 of 14 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Horford knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter that seemed to be the turning point in the game.

11. “Yeah, I really have to give all the credit to [Boston guard] Marcus Smart on that,” Horford said about his 3-pointers. “He just sees the game in ways that a lot of times we don’t even see it. He recognized that my guy was kind of falling asleep on the weak side. [Smart] got me open there for back-to-back threes and I felt like that was a big turning point in the game.”

12. The second biggest reason that Boston was able to win was the play of guard Kyrie Irving. He finished with 24 points on 10 of 18 shooting, including some incredible maneuvers to the hoop and finishes. Irving is without question one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA, and likely the best below-the-rim finisher in the league today, if not ever. He also had a team-high seven assists.

13. Irving did make news earlier in the day at shoot-around when he made it seem as if he thought the game being played at the MECCA was being played on the original floor from back in the 1970s and 1980s. He caught plenty of grief for that on social media, and deservedly so. While Irving was warming up with about 45 minutes until game time, fans could be heard yelling his way, asking if he was alright out there on the court.

14. Even though he was worried about it beforehand, he did have good things to say following the game. “It was great to see the intimacy of those seats out there as well as the fans kind of being right on top of us,” Irving said. “I enjoy environments like that. It was definitely great to be out there on that floor.”

15. The two teams have already met twice in the first five games of the season, each winning on the road. Obviously, matchups in October shouldn’t be overly looked into, seeing as how much can change between now and the start of the playoffs in April. That being said, a 7-game series between these two teams would be fun for everybody involved.

16. The Bucks will be in action next on Sunday in Atlanta taking on the Hawks (1-4). They return to the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Halloween to face reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.