The Milwaukee Bucks will face the Boston Celtics in the first of a best-of-seven-games series this Sunday afternoon in Boston.
More often than not, the NBA’s No. 2 seed versus No. 7 seed matchup is little more than a tune-up series for the top-seeded squad, yet this tilt may have the makings of an upset.
Though seeded second in the Eastern Conference behind the Toronto Raptors and boasting one of the top defenses in the NBA, the Celtics were dealt a major blow last week when it was announced their star point guard and team leader Kyrie Irving would not be available for the playoffs because of a knee injury he sustained last month.
Now without Irving, the Celtics will rely on 31-year-old big man Al Horford to bring a sense of calm and veteran leadership to an otherwise young, inexperienced lineup.
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Rookie Jayson Tatum, second-year man Jaylen Brown and Irving’s back-up Terry Rozier, will need to step up for the Celtics in order to avoid an upset.
For the Bucks, it really all comes down to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He leads the team in points (26.9) and rebounds (10.0) per game and also is a close second in assists, coming in at 4.8 per game.
Though promising scoring nights have not been rare from other members of the Bucks, like Khris Middleton or Malcolm Brogdon, the Joe Prunty-led offense flows through the “Greek Freak.”
The Bucks will face a bit of a coaching disparity, as Prunty is a long-time assistant coach who has yet to prove himself as the top dog. For the Celtics, they have the luxury of their man Brad Stevens calling the shots. Stevens is widely respected around the league and in some circles, is taking over for Gregg Popovich as the best coach in the league.
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The regular season series between these two teams is tied at two games each.
The time looks to be perfect for Antetokounmpo to use this opportunity as a statement to the league — that he is among the top tier of players in the NBA.