The Celtics will officially face the Bucks in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, and they have at least a few advantages to help them throughout the series. The Bucks beat the Bulls on Wednesday to close out the first-round series 4-1 between the division foes.
Game 1 of the second round will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at TD Garden, meaning the C’s will have at least a few more days to prepare to play the Bucks. The Celtics finished as the No. 2 seed in the East while the Bucks were third, which was a choice for both teams. Milwaukee rested its starters on the final day of the regular season, while Boston elected to go for the win and face the Nets in the first round.
The Celtics have home-court advantage throughout the series, which could be huge if the series goes a full seven games. Boston also will go nearly a week between games after sweeping the Nets, though many expected the first-round series to go a few extra games.
After the C’s faced Kevin Durant in the first round, they’ll face two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo up next.
Khris Middleton isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the second round after he sprained his MCL against the Bulls on April 20. The Bucks said he’ll be re-evaluated two weeks after the injury, but there’s a chance Middleton misses the entire second round as he heals his injury. On the injury front, Robert Williams III is back for the Celtics as he looks to fine-tune some of the rust he built up coming back from meniscus surgery.
The Celtics are the betting favorites to come out of the East, but they’ll have a huge test in the Bucks. Milwaukee won the title last season and Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the world alongside Durant, but the Bucks superstar is in the prime of his career. Expect the Celtics’ defense to be tested, and how the C’s guard Antetokounmpo will be an interesting wrinkle.
The Celtics and Bucks split the season series 2-2 in the regular season, though each team was shorthanded for three of the four games. Antetokounmpo missed Game 1 of the season series, the Celtics were missing most of their depth pieces in Game 3 because of COVID-19, and the Celtics rested Jayson Tatum and Al Horford in Game 4.
It should be a heavyweight battle between the Celtics and Bucks in the series, though. Milwaukee seemed to have a second gear throughout the regular season coming off a title. But the Celtics are a formidable foe armed with the best defense in the league. A long series appears to be the expectation going into the second round.
Story by Souichi Terada, masslive.com