It was a sad Thursday evening for most Celtics fans. Boston had been in a slump, winning just 3 of there last 6 games going into a very pivotal game against Milwaukee. Boston fans were clambering for a big time win, which unfortunately did not come against Milwaukee. Of course, members of the NBA media jumped to conclusions, saying how the Bucks were the best team in the East, and hell even the entire NBA. But, if you actually watch the game, Boston showed more flashes of being the best team in the eastern conference than the Bucks.
In my personal opinion, I think the Boston Celtics are the most talented team in basketball, and this game showed it. After being down double digits for a majority of the game, Boston was able to close the lead to 2 with a few minutes left in the game. Though the outcome may not have been what Boston wanted, those types of games truly teach you about your team.
The biggest issue I saw was their interior defense. Boston could not find a way to stop Giannis and other diving towards the rim. Despite Boston having a top 10 defense, they at points look like one of the worst in the league. Milwaukee shot 71% in shots from 5 feet or closer against Boston, their highest split of the year.
With Boston having Daniel Thies and Enes Kanter as their rotational centers, these type of splits will continue to happen. The top teams in the east all have strong front courts. If Boston does not get an interior defender soon, they will just become another team with too much talent that can’t win.
Boston currently has four players averaging close to 20 PPG, and a fifth shortly behind. The odd man out from this group is Gordan Hayward. Hayward has not started in 50 games for Boston in his three year tenure. Yes, Gordan is a decent player, but in order for Boston to compete in the east, he needs to go.
With the February trade deadline approaching, Boston needs to be in the market for a center. Players like Andre Drummond, Nikola Vucevic, and Dwayne Dedmon are perfect for Boston; with GH making close to 30 million a year, his contract is perfect to move for some interior help. If the Boston Celtics make a trade for an established big-man, they will be without a doubt the best team in the Eastern Conference.
To recap, I learned that Boston has enough talent to go pound for pound with some of the best teams in the east, even without one of our best players. They have the depth, the star power, and the coaching, now all they need is a true big-man to stop Giannis and company. With Boston only losing by five with Hayward struggling and Brown out, it is clear that they do not need Hayward. He needs to be moved by the deadline for this team to seriously contend with the top teams in the NBA.
Despite the Bucks evidently winning this game, they showed some very weak points within their team. For starters, when Giannis is out of the game they don’t have a consistent play maker. Eric Bledsoe has been very turn over prone this season, averaging two assists a game. George Hill is also way past his prime, he is still a killer from three point range though. But, when Giannis is out the offense stagnates.
The ball seemed to just sit at points, running unsuccessful pick and roll over and over again, until the primary ball handler would dump the ball in the corner for a contested 3 (that went in). It isn’t uncommon for teams to be stagnant, but this a trend from what I have seen from Milwaukee.
It is good to see that they finally do have a solid 10 man rotation of players who can actually contribute (yes that is a shot at Tony Snell). Their players know their role, and abide by it.
If Bledsoe and Middleton can play up to their contracts, the Bucks would be unbeatable, unfortunate they don’t. But, even with Bledsoe and Middleton not playing on an All-Star level, they are still good contributors. This roster may not be Finals worthy, but as of right now, it doesn’t seem like a team in the east can stop them.
So, what did I learn? Well, Boston is still somehow always one piece away from greatness. It is up to Coach Stevens and Danny Ainge to make the tough call to deal Hayward, and if they pull the trigger, than watch out NBA. For Milwaukee, their roster is set. They have what it takes to make the NBA finals, but really only because a majority of teams are “behind the 8 ball” when it comes to finding ways to stop them. But, with Boston taking down the mighty Lakers on MLK day, along with the rumors of an Andre Drummond trade, that sure fire NBA finals appearance for Bucks may be foiled by Bostons star power. So, the Bucks are the best team in the east, for now.