What to know before the Bucks take on the Celtics

Bucks Rout Bulls 116 100 In Game 5, Advance To Face Celtics
Morry Gash - staff, AP

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during the first half of Game 5 of their NBA playoff basketball game Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Milwaukee.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — The Bucks continue their title defense on Sunday against the Boston Celtics.

Both teams took similar paths to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets, though they never won a game by more than 8 points. Milwaukee had to play a fifth game against Chicago but demolished the Bulls in Games 3, 4 and 5.

The Bucks head into the series missing star forward Khris Middleton, who suffered an MCL injury in Game 2 against the Bulls, and could potentially miss the majority of this series as well. Before his injury, he was the Bucks’ second-best scorer behind Giannis, averaging 20.1 points per game during the regular season. He was also one of the top-three players on the team in assists with 5.4.

The Celtics have their own injury concerns. Their second-leading scorer Jaylen Brown is battling hamstring tightness but is expected to play throughout the series. Should the injury limit Brown’s playing time, it may level the scales for the Bucks.

The series pits two league leaders against each other. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Celtics star Jayson Tatum were both in the Top 10 in points per game during the regular season. In the Playoffs, Tatum is ranked 3rd in points per game with 29.5, while Giannis is 4th with 28.6.

The Celtics lean heavily on the combination of Tatum and Brown, with both averaging over 20 points per game. Grant Williams provides a strong scoring presence off the bench with 11.3 points per game. This battery slightly outscores Milwaukee on a per-game basis, with Boston averaging 113.5 and the Bucks averaging 109.8 in the Playoffs.

Luckily for Milwaukee, the Celtics fall short when it comes to rebounds. Against Brooklyn, the team averaged 39.5 rebounds per game. By contrast, the Bucks grabbed 51.8 rebounds per game against Chicago. Giannis averaged 13.4 and Bobby Portis averaged 11.4.

The Bucks also saw a surprise emergence from the bench against Chicago. Grayson Allen erupted after Khris Middleton went down injured, averaging 13 points per game and shooting 58.3% from three-point range. If he can continue that production, he may be able to fill the hole left by Middleton.

This is not the first time in recent memory that the Bucks and Celtics have met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The two locked horns in 2019, with Milwaukee winning in 5.

Game 1 of this year’s series is scheduled for Sunday at noon in Boston. The Bucks will return to Fiserv Forum for Game 3 on May 7.