NBA Playoffs — Style Matchup Can’t Help But Favor Celtics vs. Bucks


If there is any team in the NBA that is going to live by the three-pointer, and possibly die by it, well, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks. Mostly they have lived, and lived very well, by the long-range shot, as they have made more of them than anyone except for the Houston Rockets, but the flip side is that they have also allowed more three-point attempts – and successes – than anyone else.

The way this has all worked for Milwaukee isn’t very hard to figure out. They design their scheme around taking control of things on the inside, which means that Brook Lopez is there to patrol the lane. And it would be kind of simplistic to say that they let the opponent shoot the triple with resistance; what they want to do is force the weaker shooters on the part of the opposition take more attempts than they would otherwise intend. That’s how they can keep the percentages under relative control.

When playing against teams that can out four or five decent shooters on the floor at once, however, the Bucks can find themselves in something of a dilemma, because there won’t be anyone they can neglect. And that is why this playoff matchup against the Boston Celtics is a bad one for them.

In the NBA East playoff odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Bucks are laying some points:

Milwaukee Bucks -7.5 (-103)
Boston Celtics +7.5 (-107)

Over 219.5 points (-102)
Under 219.5 points (-108)

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Big men who can shoot from beyond the arc are not plentiful in the NBA, and in this series there are two of them. Not only can Lopez drain the long ball, but Al Horford can do that as well for the Celtics. Not only does he bang on the boards, but he stepped outside to hit 43% triples last season and 36% this year. The big man with the outside shot is more advantageous for Boston, though, because of the way Milwaukee seeks to play defense. They get stretched in a way they don’t want to be. On defense, Lopez is in “no man’s land” when he’s out there in space.

That matchup dictated some of the personnel maneuvering in Game 1, as Lopez logged just 26 minutes, while the Celtics has Aron Baynes, not a huge threat to create a lot of space, for only nine minutes. Instead, they started 6-9 Marcus Morris, who took 389 three-pointers this year and made 37.5% of them, alongside Horford. At the end of the day, Boston made just shy of 42% from downtown, and that’s way out of Milwaukee’s tolerance zone.

And of course, what often happens when things get opened up is that they break down everywhere. And Kyrie Irving makes 10 of 16 shots from two-point range.

So even though we would expect that Milwaukee is going to get a better shooting night than the 34.8% it had in Game 1, and Giannis isn’t likely to be limited to 7-of-21 from the field again, it’s the matchup – the fundamental matchup – that almost mandates that this series of going to play in favor of Boston, unless they go completely cold from the floor. And by definition, that means we’ve got to grab those points in Game 2.

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