Boston Celtics

From the depths of The Sports Hub studio we bring to you a preview of the first round of the NBA Playoffs featuring the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

Wednesday night was full over scoreboard watching as the East’s second place Celtics awaited the news of who would be coming to Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Long and behold, the Bucks lost to the Philadelphia 76ers and with the Miami Heat beating the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks fell from sixth to seventh in the East.

After falling down a peg in the standings, the Bucks found themselves being the ones who will be shipping up to Boston for game one on Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden.

The Celtics finished the year 55-27, for head coach Brad Stevens’ most wins in a season as a NBA head coach. And the C’s went 27-14 at home and 28-13 on the road. For the Bucks, they finished the year 44-38, while going 25-16 at home and 19-22 on the road.

In four games against each other this season, the Celtics and Bucks split the season series at 2-2 and they even split the home and away at 1-1 each.

The Bucks took the first game of season series in Boston, 108-100, which happened to be the second game of the regular season and the first without Gordon Hayward after suffering a horrific leg injury in game one of the regular season against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston took the second game of the season series in Milwaukee, 96-89, in late October. And they won game three in Boston, 111-100, back in early December. But the Bucks took the win in the final game of the series at home in early April, 106-102.

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In three out of the four games, both teams scored 100-plus points. With the Bucks shooting better than the Celtics from the field in three out of four games. And the Celtics shooting better than the Bucks from beyond the arc in three out of four games.

Through four games, the Bucks shot 48.7 percent from the field, out-shooting the Celtics by less than two percent at 46.8 percent. But the Celtics out-shot the Bucks from deep with a 39.8 shooting percentage from three, compared to the Bucks’ 36.3 percent.

And the Celtics out-rebounded the Bucks in two games and in the season series at 170-151 for an average of 42.5 compared to the Bucks’ 37.8 rebounds-per-game.

Both teams struggled with turnovers in each of the four games. With the Celtics averaging 14.5 turnovers-per-game and the Bucks committing 13.75 turnovers-per-game. So you can say they’re relatively close when it comes to ball control on the offensive end.

In each team’s win, there was an apparent “X-Factor,” who could potentially take control in any of the upcoming matchups.

BOSTON – DECEMBER 4: Al Horford of the Celtics defends Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks during the second quarter at TD Garden on December 4, 2017. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Obviously for the Bucks, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged a double-double against the Celtics and had monster games in games in which they won. And in one of those games, he dropped a whopping 37 points. But in their October loss, he put up a 40-spot on the C’s.

Through four games, the “Greek Freak” averaged 33.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and five assists-per-game on 53.9 percent shooting from the field.

As for the Celtics, it was all-star forward Al Horford who emerged as their “X-Factor.”

In the two games the Celtics won, Horford snagged nine rebounds and scored more than 20 points. Through the four games, Horford averaged 18.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists-per-game.

The impressive thing about Horford is that he’s shooting 70.4 percent from the field and 60 percent from three against the Bucks this season.

If Horford shows up and plays his game, while knocking down a good chunk of buckets and playing strong defense on a guy like Antetokounmpo, the C’s will have a good chance at winning the seven-game series.

But if Antetokounmpo can dominate like he’s shown throughout the season, he’ll give the Bucks their best shot to win the series. Especially if guys like Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker and Eric Bledsoe play well.

Don’t go counting out the Celtics’ young core of players in this series though!

Despite their lack of playoff experience, guys like Jayson Tatum, Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin and others could have a real impact on this series. Plus add in guys like Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, who have been lucky enough to gain some playoff experience, the Celtics could surprise a lot of people who have their doubts about this team moving along in the playoffs.

In his rookie campaign, Tatum is averaging 13.9 points-per-game on 47.5 percent from the field and 43.4 percent from three, to go along with five rebounds.

Brown, in his sophomore year in the NBA, is averaging 14.5 points on 46.5 percent shooting from the field and 39.5 percent from three, in addition to five rebounds-per-game.

And we can’t forget about “Scary Terry,” who’s assumed the starting point guard role at times with Kyrie Irving out. Rozier has been battling a few down games of late, but he was averaging 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists-per-game over a recent 10-game stretch.

So if he can find his rhythm again, he’ll be a force to reckon with on both ends of the floor, particularly if he buckles down on the defensive end against a guy like Bledsoe.

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Oh and one other thing. Greg Monroe could end up playing a huge role for the Celtics in this series, especially with the Bucks’ lack of size in the paint. Since his arrival in Boston, he’s averaging 10.2 points on 53 percent shooting, plus 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in less than 20 minutes-per-game.

Who would’ve thought before the season started that the Celtics would be without Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis when the NBA Playoffs opened in mid-April?

CLEVELAND – Gordon Hayward of the Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cavaliers on October 17, 2017. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

But Green Teamers everywhere are crossing their fingers as they watch the calendar in hopes of Smart making an early return to the lineup after undergoing thumb surgery a few weeks ago.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Stevens said that “the April 27 date is the earliest that I’ve heard that he [Smart] could be back. So we’ll cross our fingers and see.”

This series can go a few different ways. It’ll end up being either a good ole fashion barnburner, a heated battle that’ll come down to a buzzer beating basket or two, or it’ll come down to a game seven in Boston. But if the NBA’s top-ranked defensive team in the Celtics can take care of business at home, they should win the series in less than six games.

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More On The NBA Playoffs:

Playoff rosters must be set by Friday at 3 p.m. ET, with the first round of the NBA playoffs beginning the next day, Saturday, April 14.

The conference semifinals series are scheduled for April 30/May 1 but could be moved up to April 28/April 29.

The conference finals series are scheduled for May 15/May 16 but could be moved up to May 13/May 14.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for May 31 with a Game 7 on June 17 if necessary.

UP NEXT: The Celtics (55-27) welcome the Milwaukee Bucks (44-38) to the TD Garden on Sunday for game one of their NBA Playoffs matchup. Catch the call of the game with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, live on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Pre-game coverage begins at 12:30 p.m., with tip-off set for 1:00 p.m.

— By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com

John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at john.hardiman@bbgi.com.

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