Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

It appears the Milwaukee Bucks like their chances against the ailing Boston Celtics. They got smoked against Philly–riding a 16 game win streak, in their last game of the year. This is an intriguing matchup, Boston without its star Kyrie Irving, while the Bucks are at full health and with a star of its own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. It will be a high contested closely matched series the entire way through.

Regular season summary

Boston Celtics

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Jayson Tatum (Photo by bostonherald.com)

Given all of the injuries Boston had to deal with, they faired very well in 2017-18. They were in first place for a good portion of the season, but with a few key injuries and the stellar play of Toronto, dropped to the number two seed. Gordon Hayward went down in the first game of the season, and we recently found out that Irving would miss the remainder of the season.

Jason Tatum would shine in his rookie season and Jaylen Brown has developed nicely. It will be interesting to see how Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin fill in for Kyrie. Al Horford will definitely have a favorable matchup against the underweight John Henson. Marcus Morris has been playing lights out the tail end of the year and with the coaching of Brad Stevens we are in for a competitive series. Boston will remain in games because of their team defense, which was the fourth best in the league.

Milwaukee Bucks

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Giannis Antentokounmpo (Photo by thecomplex.com)

The Bucks have proven all season that are capable of beating any team, but at the same time can lose to any organization as well. Issues that plague Milwaukee are overall defense and a big man to go up against other big men.

Giannis is constantly improving and Khris Middleton is the best mid-range shooter in the league. Eric Bledsoe has come on strong towards the end of the year and had a stellar overall year. Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are returning from injuries that have hurt them towards the end of the year. Jabari Parker coming off the bench and staying healthy is a huge piece of their equation; he must play well for the Bucks. The offense has been there all season for Milwaukee, but will their defense show up in the playoffs? Time will tell.

Prediction

The Bucks will end up prevailing in five games. They will split the first two games in Boston, which will set them up for a finishing game in Boston. A missing Kyrie Irving greatly impacts the outcome in this one, otherwise, Boston would take the series in five. It’s impossible to replace a team player of his greatness and with Hayward out as well, it’s extremely impressive they remained the number two seed. How much game do Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have in them?

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Thanks for everything #WhiteLightening, you will be missed

We have all been witnesses to one of the greatest duos this sport has seen over the past decade. Yes the connection of Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson is more than statistics.This tandem was in sync, rhythmic, hell let’s say the two were symbiotic: poetry in motion. Now this duo will never hook up for a Rodgers to Nelson (or white lightning as fans in Green Bay referred to him) completed pass and a “first down Packers”. Never again.

Sad truth is the NFL is a business and just like any operation, if said player doesn’t perform to his potential, moves are made. Sometimes these moves are painful, but that is the nature of the beast. It is with a heavy heart as a lifelong Packer fan I inform you Jordy Nelson will be missed.

When one reviews the statistics, you begin to see the excellence. Nelson’s career spans over 10 years, with nine actually played in: his knee injury made him sit out the entire 2015 season. It reads, 550 receptions for 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns. He averaged a hair over 14 yards per catch

Jordy Nelson was much more than a football player. He was a class act. I mean that in all sincerity. He was an active member in the community, and lived in Green Bay year round. He was involved in weekly talk shows, and fully embraced his role as a professional.  He even suffered a few concussions like all pros do and took it all with style and grace.jordy1

When asked what made Jordy Nelson stand out, Brian Gutekunst stated, “one of the things I’ve always liked about Jordy is his preparation, his sacrifice to the game to make himself prepared not only physically, but mentally. He had excellent hand eye coordination and his ability to find the ball and track it and get into position to make tough catches, even when he was covered I think was very impressive.”  He also stated that a reunion at this time, wasn’t very likely.

Aaron Rodgers left a tweet in respect for number 87, stating that “no teammate exemplified what it means to be a Packer quite like him. From living in Green Bay full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field.” Jordy was a treat to have around for a decade, he wasn’t just a waffle cone he was a banana split.

Packer Nation, yesterday was a sad day. I will say that these changes were a requirement for this team to evolve to the next level, and we owe it to #12 to give him the BEST competitive advantage possible. After all Aaron only has one ring under his belt and something tells me he isn’t content with that.

White Lightening, may you play on and play well for the duration of your pro career.

 

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Pivotal Stretch for Milwaukee begins Wednesday

The Milwaukee Bucks have been in every game since the All-Star break. Sadly, this club has been on the losing side of late, going 2-5, dropping them into the 7th seed of the playoffs. During the five losses, the Bucks have given up on average 107 points per game, while scoring 99 themselves.

For this team to win close games against good teams, they must value a mindset of remaining in the moment. All it takes for this team to lose is one poor stretch where they lose focus. That’s literally the difference between winning or losing the close ones.

This time of the year, teams are perfecting their game, tweaking potential areas of weakness. If unable to correct certain issues, the good teams expose these areas like night and day. Milwaukee knows where it must improve.

The Bucks must be ready to compete at a high level from the start of the first quarter and the start of the second half. Teams have been consistently jumping on them early and playing catch-up is just exhausting when it is a constant theme. Truth is, because every game has been so close, this has been their demise.

The city of Milwaukee is connected to this team, we all appreciate the fight, the talent, but we needs wins. Everyone thought this was the year for this team to step up their game, to evolve into the upper tier of the Eastern Conference. I’m not saying they won’t accomplish their goals, they are so close, it almost drives a fan mad. But, this stretch is monumental if this club has any aspirations of doing damage come playoff time.

Milwaukee must go at the very least 4-2 during this time against Houston, New York, Memphis, Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland.   Obviously, they face a tough test tonight against Houston. But the following four games the opposing teams have a combined record of 62 wins and 175 losses (35% winning percentage). If they surrender a loss to anyone of these bottom feeders, they will pay for it in the future.  In fact, had they fared a little better the past 5 games it would have given them a little leeway.  Look for the Bucks to usurp their will against these clubs and dominate.  Then there will be a test in Cleveland.  So, take care of business and grab one of the two that you aren’t supposed to win. Before you know it, you’re back in the position that feels good and safe.

On the contrary, stumbling at this juncture has the potential of costing this team the playoffs.  Although there are a few games separating the 8th and 9th seeds (top 8 make it), do you really want to go to Toronto or Boston for the first round? I think not. Forget expectations, and play solid basketball.  Live play-by-play and seize the opportunity, it’s right at your fingertips.  However, we are talking about a franchise that has been consistently losing for the better part of three decades. Can they rise above?

My gut tells me it’s only a matter of time, embracing the moment, being the absolute best you can be for the entire duration on the court. It’s when you maximize being in the moment and embrace it head on, that you start to have successes in these situations. Lets embrace these moments Bucks, it’s your time to shine!

 

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Bucks outscore Sixers by 20 in second half

10-0 Sixers—33-14 Sixers–

That was the start of Sunday nights affair between Milwaukee and Philly.  The game was taking place in Milwaukee and, as had been the case in the past four games prior, the Buck’s were getting outplayed.  Ben Simmons was controlling the pace and flow of the game, dropping dimes left and right.  He was getting to his spots and setting up his teammates in theirs.  Dario Saric wasn’t missing any shots (he ended shooting 9-11 for the game) and this Milwaukee team had been in this spot the past 4 games.

The Buck’s kept competing and narrowed the margin to within 12 points at halftime.  But as the second half began, they were not, and instantly fell behind 81-62 after two minuets in the third.  The variable that would be different this go around was their star was about to catch fire, yes Giannis was about to step his game up.  In a interview after the game, Giannis spoke to Bledsoe about the pace.  “We gotta pick up our pace, we’re playing too slow.  No matter what was going on, they were coming down on us and we need to do the same thing.  We had them beat on the floor, and its hard for him to play (referring to Joel Embiib) in fast pace.  That’s what we did and were able to get a lead.”

Antetokounmpo finished this one shooting 14-23 from the field, for 35 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and two steals.  He credited shooting with patience as the basis for his success.  He and his teammates also created 26 turnovers, the game changing stat in this one.  Philadelphia had twice as many turnovers and as a result had 25 fewer total shots.  Even though they shot a higher percentage (55% to 50%) it wasn’t enough.

Giannis wasn’t alone in the fight.  His point guard Eric Bledsoe had a solid all around game, going 8-18 from the field for 22 points, 7 assist’s, 5 rebounds, and two steals.  good thing because Khris Middleton struggled a touch going just 5-14, finishing with 10 points, 5 assists, and three steals.  Philadelphia was led by Saric, who scored 25 points and collected 6 rebounds.  Joel Embiib was just so-so, going for 19 points and 8 rebounds, while Ben Simmons had 12 points, 15 assists, and 5 boards.  He also had 6 turnovers.Giannisvssixers3.4.jpg

In regards to runs that his team has been know to surrender, Bucks coach Joe Prunty chimed in.  “The bottom line is the game is 48 minutes.  The more we can stay focused through the whole time, even if they go on a run, the better off we are going to be.”  Milwaukee must remain in the present, its crucial for their success.

After all was said and done Philadelphia has to be kicking themselves for not sealing the deal.  They had their opponent right where they wanted them, on the road, and weren’t able to finish.  Conversely, this could be a changing point for the Buck’s who looked dead in the water, but resuscitated back to life.  The fight that this team possesses must be noted, however you must be ready come first and third quarter, even Giannis noted this in the press conference.  Best news is they were victorious over a team that was ahead of them by a couple games, playoff positioning is already underway.

 

Key Stats to follow:

  1. Rebounding.  Buck’s =38 Sixer’s =32.
  2. Total points allowed.  110.  That’s high, in fact 5 points over what they typically average.  Given the fact that Philly shot so well from the field, this total is acceptable within the context of this game.
  3. Bench points.  Milwaukee=33 Philadelphia=28

 

 

 

The real truth for the Milwaukee Bucks

The expectations surrounding the Bucks around All-Star break were swirling.  They were eighth in the ESPN Power Rankings for the NBA.  Riding a 9-3 streak, they felt like they were in a fantastic position, fifth in their conference.

Less than a week later, things look slightly different in the East.  Now Milwaukee is the seventh seed, and reeling in a big way.  Since the break, the team is 1-4 and their lone victory came against the conference leading Raptors.  That alone shows the potential of this team.

Potential and length only get one so far at the highest level.  I mean that 100 percent, teams that constantly win do the little things the right way.  This is what separates middle tier teams from the top, and this is the direction I thought Milwaukee was headed.  Upon reviewing some key stats and closely watching their games I unraveled some truth.

  1. Milwaukee resides in last place in total defensive rebounding.  This means there is no team worse then them on average.  Very interesting they are considered a threat with this rate.  Defensive principles revolve around getting stops and rebounding the basketball.   This will not be efficient enough come playoff time.
  2. The Bucks are the only team currently in the playoffs that possess a negative total points margin; that’s right the Bucks are going to the playoffs today and they have been outscored for the year.  It all goes hand in hand, with better rebounding, there are less second chances.  Less second chances mean fewer opponent points, this is what Milwaukee needs to strive towards.  You will do absolutely nothing in the playoffs letting up 105 points a game.

BledsoedefenseAs we stand today, I’m not fooled and no one else is either.  Milwaukee, you are being exposed at the moment when you were supposed to step up and get past this hurdle, you were supposed to evolve.  The Bucks are no more than a middle of the pack team until they address these areas that haunt them.  Come playoff time opponents will expose your weakness each game, and as of right now Milwaukee doesn’t have enough fight in them to withstand and endure;

I’d like to hear what people think needs to improve in Milwaukee.  There are 20 games left and this group needs to turn it around, and quick.  This improvement comes on the defensive side of the ball and it starts by getting back to defensive principles.

Bucks destroyed inside against Pistons

Torrible.

The combination of terrible and horrible put together.  This was the Bucks performance Wednesday night in Detroit. The Bucks played a good first quarter and then the flood gates opened, on their way to a 110-87 loss. Now the team is reeling after its third consecutive loss, which puts them as the seventh seed in the playoffs, for now at least.

Milwaukee was punched hard with physicality, showing their need for a solid center (with girth). With both Henson and Maker, they possess length, but are so thin, Andre Drummond had a field day. There was one sequence where he gets five offensive rebounds, then eventually tips it in.  Stats really don’t lie.  The Buck’s were out-rebounded 57-35 and outscored in the paint 56-34.  Detroit clearly showed their strong hand, just abusing length that can get pushed around too easily.

drummond2

Drummond Soars to the rim

This is a trend I predict other teams will continue to expose.  Almost every playoff team has a center that can carry his own.  Most have one that can dominate the game from time to time.  Relying on team length isn’t good enough when your opponent has 60 pounds on you.  No, you get pushed around.  A few times Henson would get tangled up with Drummond (who clearly was trying to bother him) and turned to the referee and complained.  Come end of October you better be ready to engage in contact and physicality, whether you like it or not.

I saw a team that really didn’t want to be playing last night.  I get that it’s the second game of a back-to-back, and you are on the road.  But this is a team in Detroit that is hovering right about where Milwaukee is; this could have been a statement game.  We all want to see more resiliency, and WAY more defense.  When the shots aren’t falling, you need to pick up the defense not try less.  Wake up Milwaukee.

On the bright side, there is normally a Giannis highlight and that remains the case in this one:

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Giannis 0-2 in game-winning/tying opportunities since the break

There have been game winning or tying opportunities in the last 2 games and with 2 missed shots the Bucks have 2 losses. Once again, the Bucks had the quarter that killed them; this time it was the first, where they were outscored 40-22 by Washington. The defense will need to tighten the noose if Milwaukee has deep playoff aspirations.

Washington Wizards v Milwaukee Bucks

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Bucks were playing catch up from the opening quarter and they were able to eventually catch up with the Wizards. When push came to shove that game-leading basket wouldn’t drop last night. Said Antetokounmpo, ” We were getting open shots, we were getting good looks, but the ball didnt fall.  I think we just did a great job playing through it.”

Giannis was asked if missing back to back game-winning shots hurts and he replied, ” It hurts.  But I’m going to keep doing it.  I’m not going to stop, I’m going to keep working on it.  That’s what the teammates want.”  Antetokounmpo got to a very good spot on the court for his final attempt, backing his defender in the post. But as he gave a shoulder fake, he briefly lost his footing and that threw his shot rhythm off, as he was fading away.  Even he recognized he lost his balance slightly.

Milwaukee fans are used to this.  Used to their team faltering down the stretch, used to sheer disappointment, hell there are many people in the state of Wisconsin that don’t even know how good this group is because of decades of mediocrity.  Known to never keep key pieces to the entire puzzle by trading away top stock, its going to take some consistency to build the people’s trust.  It is completely and solely up to them to get hot, to not have that bad quarter, because everything matters as we near to the final 20 games of the regular season.

Lets look at the bright side.  Jabari Parker had 16 points at half time.  For the Wizard, it was Brad Beal with 21 pts, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Otto Porter Jr. added 21 points for Washington.  Antetokounmpo’s final stat line reads 23 pts, 13 reb, 8 assists, 6 blocks, and 3 steals; that is literally stuffing the stat line and damn impressive. Also, the Bucks came back from a 20 point deficit and made the game competitive.  Against the top tier teams, you must remain consistent for 48 minutes, otherwise you can kiss you chances goodbye.

Hopefully Giannis and the Bucks start embracing this challenge and start delivering. Part of making the game winning shot constantly is in knowing how it feels when it doesn’t drop, the disappointment of a player, a team, a city, hell the entire state.  This is what drives the best to greatness and we all believe this resides in Antetokounmpo.