Boston’s 102-108 defeat on April 3rd, at the hands of Milwaukee was eyeopening. The Bucks took on a battered, shorthanded Celtics squad and couldn’t put them away, despite being in control for the entirety of the second half. Horford, Monroe, Brown, Tatum and Baynes were money from all over the court, combining for 80-points, what lost them the contest was Kadeem Allen and Semi Ojeleye scoring four-points apiece. At the time I believed if Terry Rozier was ready to go, the Celtics would’ve won the game going away. Rozier didn’t play because of an ankle, he came back the next night for Toronto and went 1-for-9 and outside of the Atlanta game, hasn’t looked right. As a starter, Rozier’s been wonderful, averaging almost 17 points a game as a starter.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can carry the offense, they’re going to be the main source for points. If Giannis holds either of them to below twenty-points, Milwaukee will win this running away. It’s almost the wrong time for substitute coach Joe Prunty to play Giannis at center given how lethal he can be guarding Boston’s two forwards. As shooters, Tatum and Brown are awesome. If you are asking either of them to make a critical pass, find the open man, they cannot do that. Passing isn’t their strong suit and we seen Stevens experiment with playing playing Tatum at point guard, to little success. Rozier is a playmaker, but not a point guard in the traditional sense. The straw that’ll stir the drink is Al Horford, he’s done it before and knows how to do it. In the four-games against Milwaukee, Big Al posts 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and an astronomical 139 offensive rating. If Boston miraculously wins this season it’s because Al Horford is awesome.
Sneaky fringe All-Star Khris Middleton averaged 20 points this season on 46/35/88 splits, a modest statistical achievement, including 51.7% on twos. Despite that, Giannis and Middleton are only marginally better as a frontcourt tandem than Brown and Tatum.
Giannis/Middleton: 110.7 ORtg, 5.2 Net, 58.5 TS%
Brown/Tatum: 108.5 ORtg, 8.4 Net, 56.8 TS%
The problem is, Giannis is the best player out of those four. On the other hand, this Bucks team, while talented, has the dirtiest basement of any of this teams captained by a super-duper star. Through 71 games Eric Bledsoe’s been solid, but hardly the game-changer we all hoped he’d become for Milwaukee. Last year’s rookie guard Malcolm Brogdon’s offensive rating was higher (112) than Bledsoe’s (109) and despite his ability to play off-ball, hasn’t risen his game playing next to Giannis.
Milwaukee is a team consisting of solid spot-up shooters; 21.4% of their total points this season came from that playtype, which they run more than twenty-three other teams at 21.5 frequency rate. On “Cuts” the Bucks rank seventh worst in in the 17.2 percentile. But in isolation the Bucks are at an elite (or near-elite) 79.3 percentile. Middleton, Snell, Bledsoe are the silent killers of this deeply flawed Bucks team. And while they remain defensively challenged, Boston doesn’t have the tools to make them pay.
If Kyrie were healthy I’d take Boston over Milwaukee in a heartbeat – and it wouldn’t even be close. Prunty isn’t a good coach, falling into the same failures as predecessor Jason Kidd committed during his time there. But Giannis is a year older, wiser and Boston does not have a body on the floor that can defend him in any capacity.
My Prediction: Bucks in 5.