BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will once again meet in the NBA Playoffs. This time, they’ll be battling for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
The top-seeded Bucks completed their first-round sweep Monday night with a 127-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics and Bucks will now battle for the second straight postseason, with their series set to start sometime this weekend.
The injury plagued Celtics got the best of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks last postseason, pulling out an exciting seven-game victory. The series was highlighted by Terry Rozier and Eric Bledsoe’s feud, after Rozier was thrust into the spotlight in place of the injured Kyrie Irving. He averaged 17.6 points per game during the series, and finished it off with a 26-point showing in the deciding Game 7 in Boston. Rozier struggled during the regular season this year after taking a backseat to Irving, averaging just nine points per game.
Rozier wasn’t the only Celtics youngster to emerge against the Bucks last postseason. Jaylen Brown averaged 17.9 points per game on 43 percent shooting, and rookie Jayson Tatum scored 20 or more points in three of the last four games, averaging 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds for the series.
Al Horford was his usual solid self as well, averaging 18.1 points and 8.7 rebounds while playing some strong defense on Giannis. “The Greek Freak” still averaged 25.7 points per game in the series.
But that was last year, and much has changed with both squads since they last met in the playoffs. With 2015 NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer now calling the shots from the bench, the Bucks won an NBA-best 60 games and averaged a league-high 118.1 points per game during the regular season. Antetokounmpo took his freakishness to a new level and is garnering some serious MVP consideration after averaging 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds. Khris Middleton remains one of the more underrated talents in the NBA, averaging 18.3 points, six rebounds and 4.3 assists in the regular season. Starting shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon is also expected to return against the Celtics after being sidelined since early March with a plantar fascia injury.
But the Celtics will have both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward this time around. Irving averaged 21.7 points in his three games against the Bucks during the regular season, while Hayward averaged 14.5 points in his two contests.
The Celtics dropped two of their three regular-season matchups against Milwaukee. They won their first meeting of the season, beating the then-undefeated Bucks 117-113 on Nov. 1 in Boston. Kyrie Irving led the way with 28 points, hitting six of Boston’s 24 three-pointers, while Horford and Hayward both chipped in with 18 points. Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee in their losing effort.
The Bucks took the next meeting in Boston, 120-107, in December on a 30-point night by Antetokounmpo. The Celtics started the game on a 10-1 run, but Giannis then led the charge on a 16-0 run by Milwaukee, and the Bucks ran away with the victory. Middleton added 21 points and nine rebounds for the victors. The Celtics made just 10 of their 34 threes that night, and never got closer than 11 points in the second half.
The Bucks won the final matchup of the regular season on another 30-point outburst by Antetokounmpo, with 12 of his points coming in a thrilling fourth quarter. Middleton hit a three in the closing seconds to give Milwaukee the lead, while Irving missed a last-second attempt for Boston.
Milwaukee was one of the best teams in the NBA from start to finish, while the Celtics struggled through most of the regular season. But both teams are playing at an extremely high level and match up pretty well against each other. Like last year, this could prove to be one of the more exciting playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference.