Guarding Jayson Tatum will require a team effort from the defending champion Bucks, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Milwaukee will open its second-round series against Boston on Sunday, playing the only undefeated team remaining in the postseason.
As Nehm notes, Jrue Holiday was Tatum’s primary defender this season, but a lot has changed for both clubs. Milwaukee is expected to play without Khris Middleton (MCL sprain), which likely means Bobby Portis will continue to start for the team.
With Holiday, Wesley Matthews, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Portis and Brook Lopez starting, the Bucks held the Bulls to an average of 92 points in three games last series. Starting Portis would also allow Milwaukee to match Boston’s big men and designate Antetokounmpo as Tatum’s primary defender.
The Bucks will certainly miss Middleton, the team’s second-leading scorer at 20.1 points per game this season, but as Nehm writes, it’ll take a full team effort to slow down Tatum and the Celtics.
Here are some other notes from the Central Division:
- Zach Lowe of ESPN lays out why the Bucks will need absolute peak Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Celtics. Antetokounmpo is coming off a season where he averaged a career-high 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, shooting 55% from the floor. Boston tends to play two big men at all times (starting with Al Horford and Robert Williams III), making it difficult to score at the rim. When you combine this with Middleton’s absence, Milwaukee will certainly need a group effort on both ends to win this series.
- James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star explores why the Pacers should consider turning down Oshae Brissett‘s $1.85MM team option. By declining the option, Indiana could make Brissett a restricted free agent this summer instead of an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Pacers would be able to match any offer Brissett gets from a rival club. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game in 67 appearances this season.
- Keith Langlois of Pistons.com examines a number of Pistons-related notes in his latest mailbag, including which team may express interest in Jerami Grant and the chances of a Killian Hayes trade. Detroit finished the season 23-59, but it still has a young core headlined by No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.