2018 NBA Playoffs Preview: Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks, SWOT Analysis & Prediction
The Milwaukee Bucks, after flirting with homecourt advantage for the first couple of months this season, hit the ground later on and fell to the 7th seed in the Conference thanks to a blowout loss against the Philadelphia 76ers in their final regular season game. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks will fight tooth and nail to advance past the first round for the first time since the 2000-01 season (when they made it to the Conference Finals).
With Kyrie Irving missing for the Boston Celtics, this series will play out much more evenly than it would've with Uncle Drew fit and firing for the 17-time champions. However, the Celtics have received big contributions from players who were in role-playing capacity before Irving's injury in mid-March, and they can beat Milwaukee with their defensive schemes (they led the league in defensive efficiency through the regular season).
In a sense, the Celtics are a 'false' #2 seed, since they enter this series as the underdogs. In this piece, we break down for you the specifics of this exciting first-round series from the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Celtics have the advantage of having sturdy interior defenders and a defensive scheme that makes it tough for opponents to score off layups and 3-pointers - the two most productive scoring zones in the half-court set on a points-per-possession basis.
Opponents shoot only 34.0% of their 3-point shot attempts against the Celtics - this is a league-leading figure. The Celtics also allow their opponents to convert only 44.0% of their field goal attempts, ranking them 2nd in the league behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Celtics' big man combination of Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Greg Monroe should prove to be more than a handful for the Bucks to deal with, given their combination of size and finesse on the offensive end and their defensive acumen on the other side of the ball.
The Celtics have been great at generating open looks for their marksmen from deep, resulting in Al Horford and Jayson Tatum ranking among the top 10 3-point shooters in the league this season. Overall, they rank 2nd in the league in 3-point percentage at a 37.7% conversion rate.
The Bucks' brand of proactive defense does pay off in box score stats, as they rank 2nd in the league in steals per game (8.8) - the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Giannis are all among the top 50 thieves for the regular season. The Bucks also rank a credible 5th in blocks per game (5.4).
The Bucks' preferred starting five of Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, Giannis, and Henson is averaging a spectacular net rating of 11.4 points per 100 possessions while inserting Tony Snell into Brogdon's place in this lineup also yields them a rude net rating of 7.0 points per game.
Replacing Bledsoe with Snell while running with Brogdon at the point guard position also gives them a really good rating of 9.6 points per 100 possessions, albeit on a smaller sample size. Basically, the Bucks' starting five have been way better than their regular season record would suggest.