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Wanting to Face the Bucks Without Bogut and Probably Not Getting It

 

Tonight’s Hawks-Bucks game may determine whether Boston faces Milwaukee or Miami in the first round of the playoffs.

Let’s review: The Bucks and Heat are tied at 45-35, but Milwaukee owns the tie-breaker. Still, the Heat have the inside track for the 5th seed because of their schedule. Their two remaining games are at Philly and a home finale against the Nets. The Heat should win out and finish 47-35.

The Bucks, meanwhile, host Atlanta tonight and finish up at Boston on Wednesday. That’s a much tougher schedule, and the Hawks, if they care about the 3rd seed, will play to win tonight against the Bucks.

And if Atlanta does win at Milwaukee? The Bucks will likely finish 6th and face Atlanta in the first round.

The C’s would face Dwyane Wade and the Heat, and that may make for a tougher series, considering the Bucks are showing signs of becoming an extremely one-dimensional team without Bogut. More on this after the jump.

Of course, if the Bucks beat the Hawks, the C’s may very well get the 3rd seed—and face….the Heat, and not the Bogut-less Bucks. Which is too bad, because there may not be an easier playoff team to defend right now than Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has now played 4 games without Bogut. That’s a small sample size, but it’s all we’ve got for this season. So it’s worth asking: How much has Milwaukee changed the way it plays without Bogut? And exactly how have they changed?

The results probably won’t surprise, but they are very stark.

In the first 3 of those games, the Bucks have averaged 17 shot attempts at the rim, 4.7 shots from between the rim and 10 feet away from the hoop and about 8.5 shots from between 10 and 15 feet, according to Hoopdata (see box scores here, here, here). *

*Hoopdata box score for Boston-Milwaukee on Saturday is not yet available as of this writing. I will update when those stats become available.

Here are their season-long averages from those distances:

At-rim: 13.8-of-24.5

From rim to 10 feet: 4.4-of-10.4

10-15 feet: 2.7-of-7.5

The trend is clear: The Bucks inside game has vanished without Bogut. The missing shot attempts have to go somewhere, and, to the surprise of no one reading this, they’ve gone out further from the rim.

In the first 3 of these games, the Bucks jacked about 22.5 shots per game from spots at least 16 feet from the rim but inside the three-point line—otherwise known as the least efficient shots in the game.

Their season average from there? 8.3-of-20.7, according to Hoopdata.

And three-pointers? The Bucks have loved threes all season long, and they love them even more without Bogut. They’re jacking more than 25 threes per game without the big Aussie, up from a season average of 21.8 per game.

None of this is surprising, but it has major implications for how Boston should play the Bucks if the teams face each other in the first round. Bogut emerged this season as a monster interior scorer; no one in the NBA attempted more shots from 10 feet and in than Bogut, according to Tom Haberstroh’s heartfelt paean to Bogut on Hoopdata.

The Bucks don’t have any other interior scorers. They’re giving Bogut’s minutes to Kurt Thomas, Dan Gadzuric and Ersan Ilyasova, none of whom are effective scorers inside.

Long story short: Guard the three well, and you should be able to shut down Milwaukee’s offense.

Two other things to note about the Bucks:

• Their offensive rebounding has collapsed without Bogut.

Milwaukee has cracked double-digits in offensive boards in just one game since Bogut’s injury (their loss to Boston, naturally), and they haven’t come close to their season-long offensive rebounding percentage in any game. This is another weapon lost.

• The Bucks’ defense hasn’t collapsed—yet.

In the first three Bogut-less games, Milwaukee opponents hit (38-of-68, or 56 percent) of shots at the rim, a percentage that would be among the lowest (i.e. best for defenses) in the league. Overall, Milwaukee opponents have hit just 133-of-306 (43.4 percent) in four Bogut-less games. Over the full season, Milwaukee’s opponents are shooting 45 percent, so they’ve actually been a bit stingier without Boges.

Of course, this is a completely fake trend. Three of their last four games have come against New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago, all truly pitiful offensive teams. Over the long haul, there doesn’t figure to be a way the Bucks can sustain their D without Bogut.

All of this has me leaning to the Bucks as the preferred first round opponent. They work hard, they force turnovers and they absolutely know how to play defense. But I don’t think a one-dimensional offense can score enough to beat Boston.

  • DRJ1

    1) Completely agree, but as you said, the cards are gonna have to fall just right for the Cs to meet the Bucks again.

    2) But you never know. Literally, we never know what’s best in terms of getting to the final goal. In ’08, many said – after the fact, of course – that the toughness of the first 2 rounds is what prepared the Cs for the ultimate victory. Though the Bucks are certainly the easier out, that may not be the best route to our desired final destination. So… ya never know. Let the chips fall where they may.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    yeah, I think this stuff is interesting but ultimately not so meaningful. Of course, all of the weird outcomes that led to Chicago falling to 7th on the last day of the season surely hurt the C’s legs.

  • DRJ1

    @Zach– Yes, ’09 provided the opposite lesson from ’08, in terms of the effect of early round toughness. Given their regular season malaise this year, I’d guess the 08 model applies. But it’s impossible to know which is best now….

  • Jay P

    @Zach

    You might be right, but I don’t think that was the reason for the loss to Orlando last year. Either way, bottom line is the playoffs are going to long and grueling, there will be tough match ups in rounds 2 and 3, no matter what.

    If they can’t sustain the energy like they did in 08, then their not going to win.

    For those making the argument that their too old now to do that again, don’t forget they can rely more on Rondo now, and Perkins is better than he was in 08. No doubt they need the Big 3 to be great, but they don’t need them to be 08 great.

    I’d also argue the bench has a lot more depth this year (albeit inconsistent at best) than it did in 08. Whether or not their in the rotation right now or not, bottom line, is we got 3 guys out of the rotation, who can potentially come in and be great at anytime, if TA/Baby/Sheed aren’t bringing it.

    All in all, seeding doesn’t matter.

  • Perry

    @Zach

    The storyline of the day should not be what team gives the Celtics a greater first round series edge. The bigger issue before us is how will they approach the next two games if Milwaukee beats Atlanta tonight?

    A Milwaukee win pulls Boston to a 1/2 game behind Atlanta who play Cleveland in their home finale. The Cavs are resting Lebron and have nothing to play for.

    The Hawks are 1-6 in their last 7 road games. As you pointed out a Buck loss tonight drops them back to the 6th seed – ergo – in all likely hood setting up Atlanta/Milwaukee (3-6) in the first round. I will be watching this game closely because the Heat should take of business tonight in Philly.

    Now we have been told the players are 50/50 when it comes to the importance of gaining the 3 seed. But under what circumstances? If Atlanta wins tonight then it’s plausible and probably right that Doc approaches the last two games with caution. But if Atlanta loses tonight what should his approach be knowing they control their own destiny for the 3 seed?

  • Ray Leighton

    If we have to worry about which team we play in the first round, then we might as well pack it in. Who cares who we play?? None of these teams should be able to beat us. And one thing we have done really well this year is beat the hell out of all of the playoff teams below us. Between Milwaukee, Miami, Charlotte, Chicago, and Toronto, we are something like 13-2. And one of those losses was by 2 points to Milwaukee when Paul Pierce was playing like a cripple. All of these teams have had some impressive winning streaks this year, but all of them have also had impressive losing streaks. Whether we play a Bogut-less Milwaukee or a Miami team with the best 2-guard in the league surrounded by a bunch of players who wouldn’t start on most teams, we ought to win in four or five games.

    And if we can’t do that, then we probably aren’t going to make it much farther. Honestly, do you think that the Celtics really care which mediocre team they play in the first round?

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Perry. Totally agree. Let’s see what happens tonight first, though.

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  • Mike

    @Ray – I completely agree with you. I don’t understand why everyone is worrying so much about playoff seeding. If we are scared of the 47-35 Heat, than why even show up for the playoffs anyways? If anything I would rather play tough competition in the first round to keep us sharp than walk over a Bucks team without Bogut. And who cares if we have to play the Cavs in the 2nd round instead of the conference finals? Wouldn’t that be better anyways because they will still be trying to work Shaq back into the rotation?

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  • http://www.yahoo.com zappo777

    celtics want bucks w/o their star—-why—cant beat them evenly—this aint the celtics i know!!!new name effortless wimps

  • Mike

    zappo it isn’t the celtics saying this… they have repeatedly said that they could care less what seed they are or who they play

  • http://www.yahoo.com zappo777

    celtics may beat the bucks but they dont have it in them to win against a hungry team-they will lay down in 3rd quarter and die

  • I love Green

    Damn it, Atlanta won. Looks like were facing Miami which should be a tough series, and then the Cavs. We gotta get pretty lucky to get the 3 seed.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Beating the heat and DWade will be so much more satisfying than a bogutless bucks. Then the chance to make Lebron the goat again……can it get any better?

    Where amazing happens….

  • mitch

    zappo, you are gonna be one of the first on the celtics bandwagon after they win the 2010 NBA championship….so shut your roody poo candy a** up

  • DRJ1

    @mitch– say, you answer zapp like you know he’s notva troll. do you? cuz he sure sounds like one…..

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