Boston: 105.1 points/100 possessions (13th)
Milwaukee: 98.3 points/100 possessions (30th)
Boston: 97.7 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Milwaukee: 100.2 points allowed/100 possessions (4th)
Probable Bucks starters: Brandon Jennings (PG), John Rashall Salmons (SG), Corey Maggete (SF), Ersan Ilyasova (PF), Andrew Bogut (C)
View from the Opposing Bench: Bucksketball
The C’s beat the Bucks shorthanded just a week ago, but this is pretty obviously the more important game. A three-game losing streak would put the Celtics in a position to have to fight pretty hard for the number one seed, and the fight itself (and the extra minutes and inevitable injuries it would entail) could potentially cost them a playoff series. So this game is important because, if they lose, it might set the C’s off on a path where they’d deprioritize seeding in order to send out a healthier squad for the second season.
It’s honestly not obvious which of those scenarios you should be hoping for. Who would you rather face in the first round? The Pacers, sure, but after that? The 76ers or the Hawks? Or the Knicks? If the Celtics lose tonight, would you be that upset to watch them lose interest in finishing the regular season strong, thus falling to the 3rd seed and facing potentially a less dangerous team for them than Philadelphia? Is it wrong to write a paragraph with only questions and no declarative statements? Would you like to start the preview now?
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY
Andrew Bogut. One unfortunate development is that the Bucks have Andrew Bogut back after he was out for last week’s game, and Bogut is the player best equipped to capitalize on the Celtics’ lack of frontcourt depth. He’s easily enough to make up the seven-point differential in last week’s game, albeit mostly on the defensive end, although with Krstic out there who knows. Big Baby, if we see him tonight, has never been a great matchup for Bogut, but he’ll help. (EDIT: Davis will not help. He’s out). (EDIT EDIT: Davis might help. He’s in).
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
John Salmons. My theory is that John Hammond had an agenda to devalue the Executive of the Year Award by winning it and then proving himself to be as capable of incompetence as pretty much all other NBA GMs. Sort of a political statement to prove the meaninglessness of awards in general. So he went ahead and signed a 31-year-old volume shooter who depends on speed and athleticism and who’s always played with an eye on his next contract to a 5-year-deal.
This terrible contract got lost because it happened on the same day as Joe Johnson’s, which made the Salmons deal look like the Louisiana Purchase by comparison. But Salmons is playing horribly, so Hammond’s plan is playing out exactly as he intended.
WHAT THE BUCKS DO WELL
Defensive rebound. They do defensive everything pretty well, but they’re number four in the league in this category. The C’s, however, come with perhaps the most effective strategy against the Bucks rebounding attack, which is not to care about offensive boards in the first place.
WHAT THE BUCKS DO POORLY
Score at the rim. Score everywhere, really, because they’re still the league’s worst offense by a comfortable margin, but they’re confusingly awful around the basket, where they convert 57% of their attempts. The scrawny gentleman in the back with the sloping high-top cut can put his hand up here: Brandon Jennings takes four shots at the rim per game but only converts 50 percent of them. His penetration is somehow going the way of his shooting, instead of the other way around. And yet I guarantee you he still considers himself an elite offensive player. Ever wonder if his 55-point game might have been the worst possible thing for his career?
John Salmons is also having a terrible season at the rim, by the way.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE TONIGHT
The most important person to keep an eye on in this game is Rajon Rondo. He’s going to be challenged by the Bucks defense, and if he quits and gives into his fatigue, he’s going to alter the trajectory of the 2010-2011 Celtics. The seeding, the development of the new players, the continued success of the Big Three in their waning years: it all depends on him. The greatest cost of the Perkins’s trade, in an absolute worst case scenario, might end up being Rajon Rondo’s love of basketball, and therefore his career. Is there anything in the world sadder than that? Watch Rondo tonight with interest.
C’s 89, Bucks 85