BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics will face a formidable foe in the Milwaukee Bucks in their first game back Friday night. But while the Bucks still have Giannis Antetokounmpo, they will not have their full herd against Boston.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Pat Connaughton will not play Friday, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer announced on Thursday. Both players tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, but both have since been cleared and practiced with Milwaukee on Thursday.
Their absences on Friday are likely due to a conditioning standpoint, along with the fact the Bucks don’t really have much to play for in the eight seeding games before the playoffs, with a 6.5 game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
Both players have had some success against Boston during their careers. Though Bledsoe didn’t have a fun time against the Celtics (and then-starting point guard Terry Rozier) in the 2018 playoffs, he got some revenge last postseason to the tune of 13.4 points off 41 percent shooting from the floor in Milwaukee’s five-game series win over Boston in the East semis. Connaughton, an Arlington native who made a name for himself at St. John’s prep in Danvers, averaged eight points per game against Boston in that series.
It’s unfortunate the Celtics won’t see the Bucks at full strength, as Brad Stevens touted Boston’s first matchup as a great measuring stick for his team. The Celtics and Bucks split their two regular season showdowns, with the Celtics winning 116-105 in Boston back in October and the Bucks holding off the C’s for a 128-123 win in Milwaukee in mid-January.
The two teams were set to square off on national television on March 12, the day the NBA suspended the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.