Playoff Preview: Boston vs. Milwaukee

2. Boston Celtics

Record: 55-27

Offense: #18

Defense: #1

Head Coach: Brad Stevens (11-17 playoff record)

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

2017-18 Leaders (SUPERGLOOO season total in parentheses): Kyrie Irving 28.35 (1140.50); Al Horford 23.38 (1108.85); Jayson Tatum 21.08 (1070.43); Jaylen Brown 19.85 (889.94).

Prolific Playoff Performers (SUPERGLOOO career total in parentheses): Kyrie Irving 26.78 (1054.82); Al Horford 13.55 (894.86).

The 5,000 Minute Rule: Marcus Smart 8313; Al Horford 5081.

STARTERS MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 C Al Horford  31.6  12.9  7.4  4.7  1.1 blocks per game
 G Jaylen Brown  30.7  14.5  5.0  1.6  1.0 steals per game
 F Jayson Tatum  30.5  13.9  5.0  1.6  1.0 steals per game
 F Marcus Morris  26.8  13.6  5.4  1.3  .368 3-point %
 G Terry Rozier  25.9  11.3  4.7  2.9  1.0 steals per game

Key: MPG minutes per game; PPG points per game; RPG rebounds per game; APG assists per game; SUPERGLOOO metric derived from Player Efficiency Rating, along with On and On-Off plus-minus ratings; * denotes injured player may miss playoff games.

KEY RESERVES MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 C Greg Monroe  20.4  10.3  6.9  2.2  0.9 steals per game
 C Aron Baynes  18.3  6.0  5.3  1.1  0.6 blocks per game
 F Semi Ojeleye  15.8  2.7  2.2  0.3  0.3 steals per game
 G Shane Larkin  14.4  4.3  1.7  1.8  .360 3-point %
 F Abdel Nader  10.9  3.0  1.5  0.5  .354 3-point %
 G Marcus Smart*  29.9  10.2  3.5  4.8  54 games
 G Kyrie Irving*  32.2  24.4  3.8  5.1  60 games
 G Gordon Hayward*  5.0  2.0  1.0  0.0  1 game
 C Daniel Theis*  14.9  5.3  4.3  0.9  63 games

7. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 44-38

Offense: No. 7

Defense: No. 17

Head Coach: Joe Prunty (0-0 playoff record)

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

2017-18 Leaders (SUPERGLOOO season total in parentheses): Giannis Antetokounmpo 31.38 (1801.45); Khris Middleton 19.45 (1208.33); Eric Bledsoe 23.88 (1154.95); John Henson 19.98 (819.81); Malcolm Brogdon 13.35 (399.39).

Prolific Playoff Performers (SUPERGLOOO career total in parentheses): Jason Terry 14.93 (1226.34).

The 5,000 Minute Rule: Giannis Antetokounmpo 13,310; Khris Middleton 12,028; Brandon Jennings 10,652; John Henson 8161; Jabari Parker 5617.

STARTERS MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 F Giannis Antetokounmpo  36.7  26.9  10.0  4.8  1.5 steals per game
 F Khris Middleton  36.4  20.1  5.2  4.0  1.5 steals per game
 G Eric Bledsoe  31.5  17.8  3.9  5.1  2.0 steals per game
 G Tony Snell  27.4  6.9  1.9  1.3  .403 3-point %
 C John Henson  25.9  8.8  6.8  1.5  1.4 blocks per game

Key: MPG minutes per game; PPG points per game; RPG rebounds per game; APG assists per game; SUPERGLOOO metric derived from Player Efficiency Rating, along with On and On-Off plus-minus ratings; * denotes injured player may miss playoff games.

KEY RESERVES MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 G Malcolm Brogdon  29.9  13.0  3.3  3.2  .385 3-point %
 F Jabari Parker  24.0  12.6  4.9  1.9  .383 3-point %
 G Matthew Dellavedova  18.7  4.3  1.7  3.8  .372 3-point %
 C Tyler Zeller  16.8  6.7  4.6  0.7  .598 true shooting %
 C Thon Maker  16.7  4.8  3.0  0.6  0.7 blocks per game
 G Jason Terry  16.0  3.3  0.9  1.2  .348 3-point %
 G Brandon Jennings  14.6  5.2  2.2  3.1  0.4 steals per game
 G Sterling Brown  14.4  4.0  2.6  0.5  .352 3-point %
 F Shabazz Muhammad  10.6  8.5  2.8  0.6  .624 true shooting %

 

If you say Boston is going to win this series, then you are basically saying it is because of the coaching advantage that everybody’s Coach of the Year Brad Stevens maintains over unknown Joe Prunty. After all, the Celtics have lost two of their three All-Stars (Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving; only Al Horford remains) and also lost two of their key reserves in combo guard Marcus Smart and center Daniel Theis. Granted, Stevens was still able to coax a No. 1 defensive rating from all his remaining talent, headed up by Horford, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, but still … C’mon … Their offense has to break at some point, right? In fact, some say it already has, following Boston’s 2-5 finish in April in games, albeit, that were rather meaningless since they already had a lock on the No. 2 seed. Still, we cannot continue to put all our chips on Celtics when half of these players spent the past year in college (Tatum and Semi Ojeleye), the G League (Abdel Nader), overseas (Shane Larkin, Guerschon Yabusele and Jonathan Gibson) or on waivers (Greg Monroe).

Stevens is a miracle worker, but it is a monumental task to take on a fully-healthy Milwaukee Bucks team headlined by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the Greek Freak was not enough for Coach Stevens and Jaylen Brown to worry about, you also have to consider how lethal the Bucks are now that Jabari Parker is playing, how Eric Bledsoe is comfortable with his new team and how Khris Middleton is discovering himself as Pippen did with Jordan 30 years ago. Alas, Milwaukee is our one big upset pick to call in these 2018 playoffs.

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics’ makeshift starting lineup may be able to match up with Milwaukee, but their third string is now the second string, and that is where the Bucks hold all the cards, with last year’s Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, future star Parker, along with instant offense generators like Jason Terry, Brandon Jennings and Shabazz Muhammad igniting the Bucks backups. There are just too many experienced go-to guys to take advantage of Stevens’ willing but inexperienced crew of reserves. It does not help that Milwaukee’s one glaring area of weakness—rebounding on both ends of the court—cannot be taken advantage of by Boston at this stage. Look for the Celtics to continue attacking from a well-balanced platform as they did in April, with six scorers ranging from 11 to 17 points per game, while the Bucks counter with a Big 3 offense led by Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe and Middleton, who all averaged 20-plus points every month this season. Granted, the Bucks do not have much playoff experience, with Jason Terry being the only playoff veteran with a lengthy list of credentials at postseason time. But Boston lacks in that area as well. That said, the Bucks do offer a sense of familiarity that few teams can match, as they have five players who meet #The5000MinuteRule of playing 5000-plus minutes with the same team. The Celtics only have two players who meet the criteria and one of them is hurt. Boston might wear the 2 seed and Milwaukee the 7, but in this matchup, it is quite obvious to see that the Bucks are really David and the Celtics in this case are Goliath.

BUCKS IN 6.