- Gus Saltonstall
3 Underrated Important Matchups in the Celtics vs. Bucks Series
I stand firm in the notion that whoever comes out victorious in the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. The two teams played a fantastic seven game series in last years’ playoffs, and it looks like the 2019 version of the series will be even better.
Names like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford are all expected to play large roles in deciding the fate of the two teams, but other smaller equally important matchups should not be overlooked in potentially determining the outcome of this clash of Eastern Conference foes.
Here are three lesser talked about matchups that everybody should keep an eye out for between the Bucks and Celtics.
Jaylen Brown vs. Sterling Brown
The battle of the Brown’s is an underrated, yet important matchup in this Eastern Conference Semi-Finals bout. Sterling Brown is almost never discussed when it comes to conversation on the Bucks, but the 2017 second round draft pick out of SMU logged the sixth most amount of minutes on the Bucks roster in the first round series against the Detroit Piston. The 6’6, 232 pound guard-forward hybrid has seen a big jump in play with the injury to Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon isn’t set to return until at least the third game of the Eastern Conference Sem-ifinals, and Brown will have to keep producing for Milwaukee at a consistent rate for the team to be its best version of itself.
Sterling averaged 25.8 minutes a game against Detroit, only 3.5 less minutes than the much more lauded Jaylen Brown for the Celtics against the Indiana Pacers. Both players represent their team’s fourth or fifth option in terms of scoring the ball, but also both play enough minutes for their ball clubs that if one of them were to get hot on the offensive end of the floor it would make a huge different.
The two players will most spend a decent amount of the time guarding each other, and don’t be too surprised if the Brown that ends the series with the better stat line will also be the one advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
Terry Rozier vs. George Hill
For a brief stint in last year’s playoffs Terry Rozier was maybe the most talked about player in the entire NBA. The combination of the “Scary Terry” nickname, with his heated matchup with Eric Bledsoe and involvement of former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe—Rozier set the NBA world on fire.
In this postseason’s matchup he will again be thrust into an important role, but with the participation of Kyrie Irving, it is a very different one for his Celtics’ team. Rozier will have to win the matchup of the backup point guards, and he’ll be going against long time NBA veteran—George Hill.
The two guards had similar numbers in their first round matchups. Rozier averaged 7.3 points, 2.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in only 18.8 minutes of play. Hill alternatively averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds in a slightly more 23.0 minutes of play. The symmetry of opposition in the rebounding and assists stats is enjoyably noted.
The two players will also most likely share a large chunk of their on the court time together. With both coming in to lead second units after Bledsoe and Irving do battle to lead the games off. The bench squads should play an important role in who comes out on top between Boston and Milwaukee, and Rozier and Hill might be the two most important players in determining that.
Semi Ojeleye vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The singular most interesting matchup in the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics series is Semi Ojeleye against Giannis Antetokounmpo. One is a second round pick who only played a grand total of 29 seconds in the first round playoff series, the other is the likely MVP and top five player in the league.
According to Darren Hartwell of Boston NBC Sports, the Bucks have a 109.6 offensive rating over the past two seasons, but on possessions when Ojeleye guards the Greek Freak, that number drops to 104.3.
Furthermore, Ojeleye has only averaged 10.6 minutes a game in the regular season. Yet, Brad Stevens has elected to start him in five of the last six games the Celtics’ have faced off against the Bucks.
Stevens’ deployed the strategy in last year’s playoff series against Milwaukee and while nobody can fully contain Giannis, Ojeleye ’s defense played a big part in Boston’s eventual victory in the series. Ojeleye ’s 6’7, 240 pound physique is one of the few in the league that can matchup to Antetokounmpo’s strength, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch the two players compete in the coming days.