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Preview: Bucks at Celtics

11.03.10 at 11:54 am ET
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As the 2009-10 season entered the final stretch, the team that none of the Eastern Conference contenders wanted to play in the first round was the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks went 10-4 in February and 11-4 in March, but on the night of April, 3 Andrew Bogut lost control during a dunk and landed with a sickening thud, injuring his right hand, elbow and wrist.

Bogut had surgery on his broken hand a week later and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. Even without their center, who was named third-team All-NBA, the Bucks still took the Hawks to seven games in the first round. The Celtics missed matching up with Milwaukee after Miami beat New Jersey in overtime on the regular season’s final day making the Bogut injury an interesting what-if?

The Celtics didn’t really hit their stride until halfway through the Cavaliers series. Would they have even advanced that far against a healthy Bucks team? Would they be back as currently constituted if they had bombed out in the first round?

Bogut has returned, although he told the Journal-Sentinel that he doesn’t think he’ll be 100 percent this season. In four games this season, Bogut is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes a night. But Bogut isn’t the only Milwaukee player dealing with an injury. John Salmons sat out the entire preseason with a sprained knee and he has struggled early.

The Bucks were a surprisingly active player last summer, re-signing Salmons and adding Drew Gooden, while trading for Corey Maggette. Those moves suggested that the Bucks are trying to win now, and while they are off to a slow start they have the pieces to be in the East’s next tier of contenders behind Boston, Miami and Orlando.

This is the second night of a back-to-back for the Celtics as they enter a stretch of five games in seven days. They handled their business against Detroit in surprisingly easy fashion Tuesday and will look to build upon that performance tonight.

milwaukee-bucks-logoBUCKS (1-3)

Offensive Rating: 97.0 (28th)

Defensive Rating: 102.3 (8th)

Pace: 90.2 (28th)

Probable Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Drew Gooden, Andrew Bogut

Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee, out), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Eye, out), Darlington Hobson (Hip, out)

celtics_logoCELTICS (3-1)

Offensive Rating: 105.6 (15th)

Defensive Rating: 98.2 (4th)

Pace: 92.1 (25th)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Shaquille O’Neal (Knee, questionable), Avery Bradley (Ankle, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out), Delonte West (Suspension)

KEY MATCHUP: Brandon Jennings vs. Rajon Rondo

Rondo has decimated the opposition in the first four games, racking up 67 assists, the best four-game start in NBA history. Jennings is among a crop of young, talented point guards trying to make their own name in the league.

While still only 24 years old, Rondo has already ascended to the top tier which also consists of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The order depends on your perspective. The challenge for Rondo this season is to play at a high level every night because he has gone from the hunter to the hunted.

KEY NUMBER: Field goal percentage

The big problem for the Bucks is that they are shooting 40 percent in their first four games. The only perimeter player who has shot a consistently high percentage has been Carlos Delfino, who 15-for-31 from 3-point range. Jennings, Salmons and Maggette have all struggled with their shooting, although Maggette is 29-for-29 from the free throw line.

The Celtics are off to a solid defensive start in all phases. They will need to continue to clamp down on the Bucks scorers and hit the glass when the shots are off.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

This is a chance for the Celtics to build some early-season momentum. They play the Bulls Friday and then hit the road for games at Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami and Memphis. The players have talked about reestablishing their home court advantage and the next few games would be a good time to start.

Read More: Bucks, Celtics, Preview, Rajon Rondo
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