We have an excellent match-up set for the second round of the playoffs as the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks take on the number 2 seed Boston Celtics. In the regular season, the two teams played each other four times, each team won two games. It's hard to take anything away from the season series as three out of the four match-ups took place before January 1st. The Celtics became a different team after the turn of the calendar year. So now the question is, what are the keys to each team winning this series.
Keys to Series Win for Celtics
Photo via Sky Sports
Jayson Tatum is coming off of a series where he outplayed one of the greatest players of all-time in, Kevin Durant. As the Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets. In that series, Tatum averaged 29.5 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds, while shooting 45.6% from the floor and 42% from three. Tatum has to perform at this same level to defeat the Bucks. It will get even harder as he is now going against a team that is better defensively and he will have to deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, defending him, all series. If Tatum can duplicate his performance from the Nets series, Boston will have a great chance to win this series.
Board Man Gets Paid
In their previous series, Boston outrebounded Brooklyn, 158 to 136 over the four games, which also included a 44-34 advantage in offensive rebounds. That led to a huge amount of second chance points. That edge on the boards played a big part in the Celtics success.
The Celtics are a great rebounding team but they will not have the size advantage in this series as the Bucks will always have size in the game with a combo of Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez or Bobby Portis in the game. Will Milwaukee's size negate the great rebounding Boston had enjoyed this year? This will be something to watch for.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
The 2021-22, defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart, has been such a big key for Boston's success this year. The Celtics need Smart to play great defense on Jrue Holiday while also being efficient on the offensive end. In the series against, Brooklyn, Smart averaged 16.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 42% from the floor and playing excellent defense on Kyrie Irving. Smart needs to do this again, against Milwaukee for Boston to win.
Keys to Series Win for Bucks
Photo provided by The Score
Fill The Donut
The Milwaukee Bucks as a team are like a jelly filled donut, that is now missing the Middle....ton. Excuse the bad joke but the Bucks are missing a huge part of their team as it was announced that Khris Middleton will miss the entire series with his knee injury. During the season, Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 44% from the floor, and 37% from three.
So how do you replace that type of production? In their first round series against the Chicago Bulls, Grayson Allen was the one who stepped up in the biggest way to fill that void. Allen scored 22, 27, and 13 points, respectively in the three games without Middleton, while shooting 66% from the floor. Now of course, Milwaukee can't expect that level of efficiency to continue but if Allen can average 15 to 20 points per game while shooting well from the floor and three, they will have a great chance to beat the Celtics.
In my personal opinion, Jayson Tatum has crossed over into superstar status. Where as his opponent, you know you can't stop him, you just hope he doesn't go crazy against you. So the key is to make sure that the second best player doesn't play to the best of his abilities. That player for Boston is Jaylen Brown. Brown is a very good player who can score in a variety of ways. He was very consistent in the previous round, scoring 22 or 23 points in each game of that series versus Brooklyn. If the Bucks can hold Brown to below 20 points per game in this series, that will increase the Bucks' chances to win this series in a major way.
Be the number 2, don't take a number 2
Jrue Holiday is one of my favorite players in the NBA. I love how smooth his offensive game is along with him being one of, if not, the best perimeter defenders in the league. With that being said, there are times where he can disappear on offense. The Bucks cannot have that happen in this series. Holiday has to be the number two option and is not allowed to poop the bed. We all know that Giannis Antetokounmpo will bring it, each and every night. Holiday has to be a consistent number two option for Milwaukee to win games against Boston. Holiday needs to average 20 points a game while shooting well from the floor and three.
This will be an all-time great series. One that we will remember for years to come when we talk about great playoff series. Giannis Antetokounmpo will prove to us again, that he is in fact the best player in the NBA. The Greek Freak will put the Bucks on his back in an epic battle against Jayson Tatum where the Bucks come out on top. The Milwaukee Bucks will defeat the Boston Celtics in seven games.