The Eastern Conference semifinals are set. The top four teams in the East have all advanced and are loaded with talent that can reach The Finals While both semifinals should be exciting basketball, one gives a matchup between a team that many thought would be the best team in the East (Boston), versus the team that was the best all year (Milwaukee).
A couple of things to watch for:
- Have the Celtics actually flipped the script?
The Celtics underachieved. The roster is full of talent. It is experienced. There were high expectations that were not meant in the regular season. A team that was expected to be the best in the Eastern Conference struggled for much of the regular season, finishing 4th in the East. They weren’t the gritty defensive team that had been a staple of the Brad Stevens tenure. They struggled to find rhythm on offense. However, they found a way to tighten up the defensive end against 1st round opponent Indiana, holding the Pacers to almost 14 points per 100 possessions less than their regular season average.
- How will the Celtics guard The Greek Freak?
In the past, Al Horford has been the primary matchup for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is such a unique matchup problem for people due to his combination of size, skill, length, and athleticism. Horford, and underrated athlete with good size, has done as good a job as anyone in the past trying to contain Giannis. No matter whom you put on Giannis, it is a difficult 1 v 1 matchup, and the Bucks do not make it easy to help with all the perimeter shooting- especially from an untraditional center, Brook Lopez.
Despite much of the rosters being the same from a year ago, look for this playoff rematch to be quite different. The Milwaukee Bucks were the most improved team in the league. The Bucks took significant steps forward on both ends of the floor under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Celtics, who won in 7 games last year, add both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who were out due to injury. This is truly a clash of the titans and should be an exciting series.