The Celtics have been in this position before and have faced off against the best player in the Conference in the form of LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers beat them in the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons.
Brad Stevens and company are now presented with Giannis, operating at the peak of his powers. Kyrie Irving started to find his form during Boston’s win over the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
The Celtics eased their way past the Pacers without their best player Victor Oladipo, advancing without a defeat for the first time since the 2010/11 season. It should be a great contest between two elite teams and it could well go the distance.
The Bucks would have been under pressure to justify their standing as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Mike Budenholzer’s men proved their quality by hammering the Pistons in the first round, easing their way through by a 4-0 scoreline. Milwaukee have reached the Conference Semi-Finals since the 2000/01 season, and therefore do not have the experience of their rivals in the contest.
The presence of Giannis gives them the best player remaining in the Eastern Conference and he could tip the balance in the series in the same way that LeBron did against the Celtics. He was impressive in the opening three games against the Pistons before he took control of the final match of the series to guide his team over the line.
Milwaukee will need him to be dominant against Boston as their opponents have the ability to put points on the board. Giannis at his best can command both ends of the court, limiting the impact that Irving can have on the contest. His defensive duties could be more important in the series as a matter of points may decide the outcome.
Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe will have vital roles in easing the pressure on Giannis. Both players were on form against the Pistons, but their margin for error will be narrower against the Celtics. Malcolm Brogdon’s loss could be crucial for the opening two games. The Bucks cannot afford to carry any of their players in the contest. Don’t overlook their defeat to Boston last year in the first round of the post-season, although Giannis’ has improved greatly since his last playoff defeat.
The Celtics underachieved during the regular season. They were one of the most frustrating teams to watch over the course of the term, failing to live up to expectations. Before the start of the campaign, pundits believed that Boston not the Bucks would sit atop of the Eastern Conference. However, the Celtics struggled for consistency and rhythm throughout, resulting in their 48-win season, forcing them to settle for the fourth seed. It has left them vulnerable to playing a decider on the road in their remaining playoff games in the Eastern Conference.
Stevens’ men did find their form in the first round against the Pacers. Indiana did appear to be out of gas after playing for the final four months of the campaign without Oladipo. The Celtics did capitalise and put them to the sword. Irving was able to deliver four impressive performances, taking the lead on the court. He was focused and deadly with his shooting from distance, while he was able to bring Tatum and Jaylen Brown into the series. Irving at his best can take the series by the horns and dominate Bucks. He has the experience and relishes the big occasion.
Tatum also seems to relish the major stage based off the performances in his first two seasons. Al Horford has provided the steady presence that will be required to combat Giannis. However, the difference-maker could be Gordon Hayward. The 29-year-old looks back to his best 18 months removed from his devastating injury. With Irving, Hayward, Tatum and Horford, the Celtics have the depth and quality to cause the Bucks problems.
Head to Head
Games Played: 213 Milwaukee Bucks: 104 Boston Celtics: 109
The two sides played out a thrilling series last year in the first round. The Celtics edged the series 4-3 by using their home-court advantage to great effect. No team won a game on the road in the seven matches. Giannis and company put forward a decent effort, but were beaten in the end by a spirited Celtics outfit playing without Irving and Hayward. Now both sides are more or less at full strength it will be fascinating to see them duel it out in the playoffs.
The series in the regular season playout in similar fashion, although the Bucks claimed a win on the road to edge their contests. Boston drew first blood in November with a four-point victory, but Giannis produced a 30-point performance to claim the second game at the TD Garden. The two sides played out a great contest in February. A single point separated them as Milwaukee prevailed at the Fiserv Forum.
The series should go down to the wire if the previous games are anything to go by. Milwaukee and Boston will be able to defend their home courts and given that the Bucks have the benefit of hosting a potential decider they should edge their way through to the Conference Finals. Boston and Stevens have struggled against the elite players in the NBA in the past.
They’re not going to be able to find an answer to stop Giannis in the crucial moments. Irving and Tatum will keep the series close, but the result from the final match between the teams in the regular season will occur again as the Bucks will take game seven by a narrow margin. Back them to take the series at odds of 33/1001.33-3000.33-3.000.33 with BetOnline and at a scoreline of 4-3 at odds of 63/204.15+3153.153.15-0.32 with TopBet. The Bucks will kick off with a home win at odds of 8/251.32-3150.32-3.150.32 in game one at BetOnline.
Milwaukee Bucks To Beat Boston Celtics Game One
Saturday 28th April 2019 13:00 EST (Sunday 28th April 20:00 BST)
Milwaukee Bucks To Beat Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Playoff Series
Milwaukee Bucks To Beat Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Playoff Series By 4-3 Scoreline