Boston is a fantastic sports city. The amount of championships achieved by clubs in Beantown is staggering. From the Celtics' 17 NBA titles to the Red Sox's nine World Series wins to the Bruins and Patriots each taking home the highest possible caliber hardware in six different instances, respectively, the city is not for want when it comes to such lofty team metrics as championship rings.
And with that history in mind, there is no denying that the Bucks-Celtics series is about to be among the most heavy-hitting of all those that are happening in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The Bucks just won their first playoff series since 2001, dispatching the Detroit Pistons in four games. The Celtics are just trying to get back to where they left off last year in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meeting in the playoffs for the second consecutive time, the Bucks and Celtics went toe-to-toe last season in the opening round of the playoffs, where the number two seed Celtics needed seven games to dispense of Giannis Antetokounmpo and his number seven seed squad. Now, the tables have turned. The Bucks are number one in the East and overall in the league, being the only team to win 60 games this season. The Celtics are number four and have struggled at times, having difficulty finding a rhythm.
Bucks v. Celtics vol. 2 is going to be some ridiculously good entertainment.
Pundits and fans alike have debated back and forth for the last week or so about who will be the likely victor in this 2019 rematch. Giannis has size, power, and speed unlike anyone else. Kyrie Irving is basketball's best closer. Brook Lopez shoots the 3 unlike any other NBA big man. Al Horford's defense is electric.
As CBS Sports data scientist Stephen Oh calls it, this series is about as close to a coin flip as any there is.
Nate Silver and the folks at FiveThirtyEight happen to disagree. In fact, their models project a 77% probability that Milwaukee wins the series and advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since that 2001 season.
It's hard to argue with that sentiment, despite what Boston Internet trolls might think. Milwaukee has been playing lights out all season. Giannis is almost sure to win the MVP award (provided James Harden's record-breaking offense doesn't do him in) and a 60-22 record is no small feat. The secret ingredient? New head coach Mike Budenholzer.
While Celtics fans are quick to point out that when the Celtics beat the Bucks and advanced to the Conference Finals last season, they did so without a healthy Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, and while the composition of the Bucks' roster has largely stayed the same since then (the addition of Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Pau Gasol not withstanding), it's also no secret that Budenholzer's coaching skills vastly outpace those of the departed Jason Kidd.
While Kidd was a chaotic force of nature, Budenholzer cuts himself of Gregg Popovich's cloth, serving 18 seasons under Coach Pop's regime in San Antonio before trying his own luck in Atlanta. And he found success there with the Hawks too, coaching them to an identical 60-22 record and number one seed in the 2014-15 season, ultimately losing in the Eastern Conference Finals.
And while Bostonians may be quick to point out Budenholzer's fall from the Hawks organization (exacerbated by departures of such players as Dwight Howard and Al Horford, currently of Boston) his latest stint with the Bucks has proved what he did in the Peach State was not a fluke. The man can coach.
Of course, his time in Brew City has been made that much sweeter by the rise of the Greek Freak. Now in his seventh year with the club, Giannis has gone from solid development piece to dominant forward in charge of one of the NBA's best collective three-point shooting gangs. His absolute ridiculousness inside the paint (see this dunk/layup thing he did against Detroit) only serves to open it up to such players as Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton (a 2019 All-Star alongside Giannis) beyond the arc. And if there's one place where Budenholzer's philosophy has been prominent, it's here: shoot threes. Shoot a lot of threes.
Which is not news to Irving and his Celtics. They faced the Bucks thrice in the regular season, losing that series 2-1. They're hoping this time is different. Irving's stats this season have largely fallen in line with his career averages, shooting 48.7% on field goals and 40.1% on three-pointers. And he especially found his groove against the Indiana Pacers in the Celtics' last series, despite the fact that they never beat them by more than 10 points in the series sweep.
Will that be enough to beat Giannis and co.? As much may depend on defense, and the collective efforts of young Celtics like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to stop the unstoppable Freak.
In short, the question remains: what happens when such an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Whether it's a 50-50 chance or a 77-23, one thing's for sure: this matchup is about to be one of titanic proportions.