Your Morning Dump… Where the odds are in the Celtics’ favor

Photo: © Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Your Morning Dump… Where the odds are in the Celtics’ favor

Red's Army News

Your Morning Dump… Where the odds are in the Celtics’ favor

Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

Bucks are not the best-case scenario for Boston, but not the worst one either: The talent level on the Bucks is impressive on paper. They will have the best player in the series in Giannis Antetokounmpo and have an edge at other positions (Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton) over the shorthanded Celtics. However, there is no denying that this is a team with question marks after underachieving all year long. The front office fired Jason Kidd at midseason with a 23-22 and his replacement, assistant coach Joe Prunty, hasn’t done much to improve that mark by closing out the year with a 21-16 mark of his own. The team has been shorthanded in the backcourt over the past couple months (no Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova) but those guys returned to action this week, giving Milwaukee a full roster to work with.

League sources indicated to BostonSportsJournal.com that while Miami may have been the preferred opponent for the Celtics in Round 1, the Bucks still came ahead of the Wizards as far as a better matchup. Milwaukee’s lackluster defense (17th in defensive rating), limited 3-point shooting (21st in NBA) and overall inconsistency (four games was the longest winning streak all year) makes them a team the Celtics should still be favored to beat despite having the inferior personnel.

Boston Sports Journal: 5 thoughts on the Celtics-Bucks first-round matchup

If I was a betting man, I could’ve scored big on Wednesday night because I was looking for a four-team parley on that final night of the regular season. And every team came through.

First, the Celts beat Brooklyn to finish with 55 wins, which some of us here at Red’s Army predicted six months ago.

Then I wanted the Bucks to finish in the seventh seed, and with Milwaukee and Washington losing, and Miami winning, that happened too.

It’s not that the Bucks will be easy to beat, but in my opinion the Celtics’ odds are better than they would’ve been versus the Heat and Wizards. This season, the Cs lost two of three to Miami and three of four to Washington, and every game was a battle.

Meanwhile, the Celts were 2-2 against Milwaukee, but there were special circumstances affecting the two losses. The first was in the home opener, when the Cs were in a daze after losing Gordon Hayward the night before. The second was when Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin were both injured, and rookie Kadeem Allen was forced into his first NBA start at point guard (and the Cs almost won anyway).

Another factor: from a pure basketball viewpoint, I’d much rather spend two weeks watching the glorious talent of Antetokounmpo than the surly John Wall and weaselly Kelly Oubre. And if the Cs had gone to South Beach, I would’ve worried who Dwyane Wade would hurt next and whether we’d be embarrassed by Kelly Olynyk dropping a career high (like he did in Boston in December).

Those are my eye test elements. If you want analytics on why the Cs should beat the Bucks, you’ll find plenty in today’s links. And here are a couple of encouraging first-round factoids.

Prediction: Boston in six.

On Page 2: You can’t stop Giannis, but you can hope to contain him

The Celtics’ approach against Antetokounmpo will be simple, but not necessarily easy to execute: Keep him away from the basket. Antetokounmpo made 542 of 811 shots (66.8 percent) from within 8 feet of the hoop this season. Beyond that distance, he was just 200 for 590 (33.9 percent).

Boston will throw a few members of its top-ranked defense at Antetokounmpo, with Al Horford almost certainly leading the charge. Marcus Morris and Semi Ojeleye are two other players who could use their physicality and quickness to keep Antetokounmpo from overpowering them. Easier said than done, of course.

In four games against the Celtics this season, Antetokounmpo averaged 33.5 points and 10.8 rebounds on 53.9 percent shooting.

Globe: Celtics face a Bucks team that was banged up all season

The 2-3 zone will come into play: There are few teams in the NBA that you can get away with mixing some 2-3 zone in at playoff time, but the Bucks are one of them. They don’t take many 3s (26th in NBA) and they aren’t particularly good at hitting them (21st in NBA). Their traditional bigs don’t have range that extends beyond the arc and Antetokounmpo has never been a confident shooter from downtown (33 percent on the year).

Boston Sports Journal: 5 thoughts on the Celtics-Bucks first-round matchup

The big number: 14.6. The Bucks rank sixth in the NBA in scoring in transition, getting 14.6 points per game. Antetokounmpo is the most prolific transition scorer in the East, accounting for 6.8 of those points. Milwaukee is a subpar shooting team (35.6 percent from the 3-point line, 21st in the league), and relies on getting easy baskets in the open court as a staple of its offense.

Boston ranks fifth, though, in defensive efficiency on transition plays, allowing 1.05 points per possession, and also ranks fifth in fast-break points allowed (10.4 per game). The Bucks will have to find ways to create transition opportunities despite the Boston defense.

Sporting News: NBA playoffs 2018: Bracket picks, predictions for Eastern Conference first round

What the stats say: Want to watch some smothering defense? Check out Jaylen Brown. Whenever he’s the closest defender in the half court, opposing players have shot just 38.1 percent. That’s the second-best mark among more than 150 players who have defended at least 500 shots this season.

ESPN: Everything you need to know about the binge-worthy NBA playoffs

 All the analysts have the same obvious question: How can Boston limit Giannis enough so that he doesn’t take over the series?

As described above, the Cs have the personnel and the defensive presence to theoretically keep Giannis from dominating. You have to also figure that Brad Stevens will win the coaching duel. As long as they can prevent the Bucks’ star from becoming Michael Jordan in the ’86 playoffs, the Celtics should be fine.

Related – MassLive: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks: 15 first-round questions as Jaylen Brown, Giannis Antetokounmpo square offBoston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum & five things to watch | NBC Sports Boston: Celtics’ first-round matchup vs Bucks means get ready for the Giannis show | NESN: Celtics Vs. Bucks Preview: Keys To Victory, Prediction For First-Round Series | Providence Journal: Depleted Celtics will need all hands on deck against Bucks | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Celtics aren’t at full strength, but they’ll be no first-round pushover for the Bucks | Herald: Bulpett: Even with injuries, a first-round playoff loss would be deemed a failure by Celtics | Washington Post: Their two biggest stars lost to injury, the Celtics still have one giant advantage: Their coach

And, finally… Birds of a feather

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