2018 NBA Playoff Preview: Milwaukee Bucks
It’s safe to say that the Milwaukee Bucks (44-38) had a solid season, but did not live up to expectations.
Unfortunately, they stumbled into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference after a dismal 130-95 loss to the 76ers. And, as a result, the Bucks will play a depleted Boston Celtics team starting Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo returned for the final game of the regular season after missing the past two games due to an ankle injury. He played just 22 minutes and will be well-rested for the playoffs.
Long term injuries included Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova, but both should be healthy to play Sunday.
On the season, Antetokounmpo leads the team with 26.9 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Khris Middleton, another dynamic forward who flew under the radar, notched 20.1 points per game and 5.2 rebounds. He played and started all 82 games this season.
On the year, Eric Bledsoe has been a solid addition to the Buck’s arsenal, leading the team in assists and steals with 5.1 and 2 per game, respectively.
Biggest Strength: Going into the playoffs, the Buck’s biggest strength is by far the “Greek Freak” himself. The offense will most likely be run through Antetokounmpo for a majority of the time, as he will be the most talented player on the floor.
His length will continue to play a role on the defensive end as well. The injury-ridden Celtics must watch out for the inevitable Antetokounmpo chase-down block.
Biggest Weakness: The team’s biggest weakness lies in its defense. Although it has taken a turn for the better since the acquisition of Bledsoe, Milwaukee still allows more points than they score, with 106.8 points scored against as opposed to 106.5 points scored.
Boston’s younger players may not have Kyrie Irving to guide them, but they’ll still give themselves a fighting chance.
X-Factor: Middleton, who’s been lights-out from beyond the arc, could prove a problem for the youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum. He’s also been a threat to Boston all season, as he scored 17.3 ppg in four games (2-2) against the Celtics this season.
If Middleton is able to help lock down either Brown or Tatum, he’ll give the Bucks a better chance of coming through on top.
Estimated Playoff Run: It’s going to be a close matchup. Though Boston has the two-seed, they lack what’s necessary to make a deep run this year. That being said, Milwaukee is healthy, and has the star power to make it past the first round this year.
If the Bucks do manage to defeat the Celtics, they’ll either face the Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76’s. In the likely event that the 76’s keep up its hot streak, there is no reason Milwaukee can’t keep up. There is actually potential this year to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
If Boston was healthy it would be a different story, however. Milwaukee is fortunate to be in the position it’s in, and needs to capitalize on its advantages.