Thursday night, the Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Boston Celtics in a prime-time matchup on TNT. The heavyweight bout was between the eastern conference’s 1 and 2 seeds, respectively. Though Boston entered the contest 3 games behind the Bucks for the top spot with little chance at fully closing that gap, it was no secret the result of the game could be foreshadowing of a conference finals matchup between these two.
Both teams are absolutely star-studded. The Bucks boast a dominant frontcourt led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is currently ranked third in the race for league MVP. The strong, physical slasher has been his normal self, averaging over 30 points per game this season. He’s backed up by the shooting prowess of Khris Middleton, though he hasn’t been quite the same since returning from persisting injuries.
The Celtics are led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, arguably the best scoring duo in the NBA. Tatum is currently fourth in the race for MVP and, though there’s a lot of distance between him and Giannis in that regard, he’s on pace to break the record for most points-per-game in a single season in franchise history.
This matchup was big, and the players knew it. Though Boston has struggled recently against mediocre teams, it was known they always step their game up against top squads. The Bucks had a lot to play for, as well, as they try to hold onto their lead in the eastern conference standings.
The first quarter was contentious, with several lead changes and ties. Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 17 in the quarter on the way to a 34 to 26 lead for the Celtics at the end of 1. Things were not quite as close from there.
Boston followed the first quarter with a 41-21 beatdown in the second. They entered halftime up 28 after forcing Milwaukee to take threes all night instead of their normal paint attack. The Celtics’ gameplan was clearly to defend the rim and not let Giannis get angles, as they constantly built a wall in front of him when he took it at the top of the key.
Boston’s dominance continued into the second half, where they led by 40+ points. Tatum and Brown were getting everything they wanted, resulting in 70 combined points from the dynamic duo. There really wasn’t much resistance from the Bucks once the largest lead was built, as Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer pulled Giannis before the end of the third quarter.
This was perhaps the most impressive win of the season for Boston, who desperately needed a big win against a great team. When looking towards the playoffs, this win proves the Celtics can choose when they want to play hard.
They know which games are biggest and usually answer with impressive performances such as this one. If these two teams do indeed match up in the conference finals as most have predicted all season, Milwaukee will certainly have this bludgeoning nagging at the back of their minds.