I am going to attempt to write this in the least biased way possible considering I’m from Boston and a diehard Celtics fan. The last night of the NBA went as follows: The Heat beat the Raptors, the Bucks lost to the 76ers, and the Wizards lost to the Magic. The three fancy italicized teams are the ones who were the Celtics potential first round playoff opponent going into last night. Some of those teams might have tanked on purpose to control their destiny a bit more, but at the end of the day, it resulted in the Bucks being the lucky team to take on Boston in the first round. This is an interesting series that I believe could truly go both ways.
Celtics Key to Winning: Al Horford
Al Horford is the Celtics key to winning this series for two big reasons, his experience as well as shutting down Giannis Antetokounmpo (spelled that correct on the first try by the way). Outside of Al, this team’s top players consist of 21 year Jaylen Brown and 20 year old Jayson Tatum. And if you’re asking, “What about Terry Rozier?”, the dude is barely 24 and has never seen this capacity of minutes on such a large stage. These guys are all great and deserve recognition, but they will need immense support from Al Horford. This will be Horford’s 10th playoff appearance and he needs to play better than he ever has for Boston to get through the first round. Al’s gotta cover the Greek Freak in this series because he’s the only one who can possibly give Giannis a hiccup on offense. The Boston big man should be able to bully Giannis a bit in the paint and with Giannis being a liability shooting the ball the interior D will be huge. Al needs to be out there for every minute that the Greek Freak is playing no matter what.
Bucks Key to Winning: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Yea this is probably the key you’d predict from me, but it’s true. Not only is Giannis Milwaukee’s best player, but if he wants to be a future MVP and best player in this league, he needs to step up and upset the Celtics here. He’s never gotten out of the first round in his young career and losing again in the first round is not gonna be a good look when looking back in the future. Giannis will lead this offense but will need to be a tremendous facilitator with nearly all of the defensive attention being on him. Khris Middleton and Tony Snell will need to hit their shots off his passes to make it really tough on the C’s. Giannis as a player needs this series upset over Boston.
Celtics Wild Card to Winning: Marcus Morris
Marcus Morris is such a scrappy offensive player that he could truly be the sneaky X Factor to this series for Boston. If any of the games come down to a last second shot, I will not be shocked one bit if Brad Stevens draws it up for Morris. In the tail end of the regular season Marky Mark Morris hit two huge clutch shots to win over the Thunder and Trail Blazers. Another way for him to play a big part is coming off the bench. He easily has starter talent and will be putting that talent to use against the Bucks bench guys. With minutes probably increasing for Morris, I could see him averaging around 18 points per game in the playoffs. He may not start, but if Marcus Morris snags the Celtics a buzzer beater win, you heard it here first.
Bucks Wild Card to Winning: Game 1 Victory
Winning game 1 for the road team is always an obvious advantage in the playoffs, but for the Bucks it means more against Boston. This Celtics team is young and inexperienced, meaning that they’ll ride the emotional wave of the crowd for each game. Shutting Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown up at home might be enough to trigger them to suck the rest of the series. Al and Morris will be consistent throughout the series home or away, but nobody else can keep it all together on the road in a roaring BMO Center in Milwaukee. The Bucks need to leave it all on the floor in game 1.
My Prediction: Boston Wins in 6
If Boston can win each of their first 3 home games in this series, I believe Brad will get his guys to come out firing in game 6 to close out the series. The Bucks will probably win their two games at home and the Celtics just gotta live with that likelihood. There’s just something special with this C’s squad that won’t get me to believe they’ll lose this early. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
-Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)