After feasting on some of the NBA’s worst teams during the last 13 games, the undermanned Celtics will face off with the second-best team in the NBA (by record) on Friday night in a nationally televised showdown. The C’s took down the Bucks once already this year thanks to a historic 3-point shooting night but they will be down a couple key pieces (Al Horford, Aron Baynes) in this rematch as the schedule starts to toughen up. Here are four keys for the Celtics to keep an eye on in the heavyweight clash:
1. Sharp defensive rotations are a must on the perimeter: The Bucks are taking more 3s than almost anyone in the league and this is a byproduct of Mike Budenholtzer’s offense and it has only grown since the Bucks added another capable guard in George Hill last month. Milwaukee is getting up over 39 3-point attempts per game as they attempt to achieve maximum spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo who has developed into a non-threat from downtown (12.5 percent!) this year. Eleven different players are shooting 35 percent or better from downtown on the year, making the C’s essentially need to be accountable for all four other players on the floor at all times. Some guys (Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton) will be bigger priorities than others (Thon Maker, Eric Bledsoe) but the C’s will need to be in scramble mode all night while balancing trying to prevent Giannis from getting into the paint at will and surrendering open 3-point looks. The good news for Boston? Sharpshooting big Ersan Ilyasova is out for this contest with a broken nose. His fill-in (DJ Wilson) has played well though in recent weeks so he’s worth watching.
2. Who gets Giannis duty with Horford and Baynes out? The two bigs