When the Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, people began anointing them as potential champions once the postseason wrapped.
Easily defeating one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, however, could be a bad thing considering the Celtics are a young team and could easily start believing their own hype. Luckily, Ime Udoka is a demanding coach and will do everything in his power to keep his players’ feet on the ground.
Speaking to the media at a recent press conference, Grant Williams took the time to ensure he was echoing a similar sentiment, noting that the Bucks will be a far more physical team than the Nets, and that Boston is poised his would have to deal with the inevitable onslaught.
“I feel like there’s a big difference in how Milwaukee comes out in transition. They’re one of the best teams in the league, if not the best, so it’s just a matter of coming back and building up our defense and making sure they have to score through us and we’re not looking at them openly. And then we took the three-point line away from their shooters, in the Brooklyn series we did a good job charging the color and focusing on these two guys and challenging other guys to shoot them, but now we have to take them these guys off the line as they shoot it extremely well. This team is a different challenge, but it’s a great opportunity for us.
I have a feeling their jumbo line up is as big as us, you know… I have a feeling it’s going to be fun, you know, the physicality of the team. Because they’re built differently than Brooklyn in some ways, I feel like it’s going to be a more physical series with these guys, and it’s going to be exciting to play in it because that suits me well,” Williams told the media, when asked about what the Celtics expect for the first game.
As the Celtics ended their streak against the Nets, eyebrows were raised when Udoka and Brad Stevens both touched Jaylen Brown’s sore Achilles tendon. Normally, when a player or coach mentions pain after a hard-fought series, you expect those issues to heal with a few days of rest, but Brown has had hamstring issues throughout the season so the news was pretty significant.
Fortunately, in a call to the media on Saturday, April 31, the team emphasized that Brown is feeling good and ready to play in the first game against the Bucks. The Celtics star also took time during his own media availability to confirm his coach’s account, noting that the extra rest the team received from the easy work with the nets was a welcome bonus.
“It was important to have a few days off so we commend ourselves for taking care of business so we can have that. I’ve had some tests this week, gotten treatment and should be ready to go,” Brown told the media. “Anytime you’re dealing with an ongoing injury, you have to be careful and cautious. But I think I’m fine. This one is on the low end of the spectrum so I’ll be fine.”
Robert Williams will also be in the competition and has returned from injury to face the Nets in the last two games of the series, albeit in a bench role. With Brown fit and ready and Williams continuing to participate, Boston can be confident of going into the opening game against the Bucks with a full-strength squad.
The common consensus in the NBA is that if you want to advance in the playoffs, you have to take care of the games in your own building. If the Celtics can win games one and two in front of their fans and then split up their away games, they will be in a dominant position.
However, that’s easier said than done when you’re up against the current champions. Instead, Boston should be confident that they have home field advantage during this series. So, should this clash result in a seventh game, it will take place at the TD Garden, where fans are often thought of as the sixth man.
Khris Middleton’s absence from the Bucks rotation will seriously hurt their chances of success, especially considering how well he usually plays against the Celtics. Still, Boston will need to be in top form if they want to build a two-game lead before heading to Milwaukee for rounds three and four.
Luckily, with the first game set to take place on Sunday, May 1st at the TD Garden, we won’t have to wait long before we can start solving this mystery and get a better idea of which team has the better chance of making it to the Final draw finals of the conference.