With the All-Star break now behind us the race for playoff positioning has begun. Teams in the playoff picture are heading into the final stretch with a winning mentality as the last month and a half of the regular season begins. It starts tonight as two of the favorites to make it out of the East in the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics face-off.
The Bucks currently hold the best record in the league at 43-14, while the Celtics are tied at the fourth seed with Philadelphia at 37-21.
Nikola Mirotic make Bucks debut
Head coach Mike Budenholzer and his coaching stuff get to unveil their newest toy in Nikola Mirotic tonight. Mirotic will take the court for the first time as a member of the Bucks after being traded by the New Orleans Pelicans before the trade deadline.
The Bucks have played in four games between the trade deadline and before the All-Star break, but Mirotic has been dealing with a calf injury that has kept him sidelined. He’s appeared in 32 games this season and is averaging 16.7 points per game (ppg) and 8.3 rebounds per game (rpg). MVP candidate, Giannis Antentkounmpo will have more help as the Bucks look to secure the number one seed in the East heading into the postseason.
Mirotic is an added bonus for Milwaukee, he’ll be able to spread the floor while Antentokounmpo draws in defenders inside the paint, which will free up shooters like Mirotic, Brook Lopez and Malcom Brogdon.
Jayson Tatum Predicts Boston to go all the way
After winning the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend, second year player Jayson Tatum made an eye popping statement as to what he believes the future has in store for Boston.
“We’re going to win the Finals,” Tatum told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “February 16, mark it Jayson Tatum said we’re going to win the Finals this year.”
Tatum and the Celtics have a lot of work to do to get to that point as Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia have added more weapons to their roster before the trade deadline.
Before the season started the talk around the league was Boston’s depth once Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returned. Boston has about nine starting caliber players on their team, which was the main reason why many picked Boston to stream-roll through the Eastern Conference. But now it seems that the Bucks, the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers have caught up, if not surpassed the Celtics.
The Raptors added Marc Gasol from Memphis and the Sixers added Tobias Harris from the Clippers. But as anonymous scout said about the Celtics it will all come down to consistently and chemistry if Boston hopes to continue playing in June.
“This team can win the East or get beat in the first round. They have great talent but sometimes they have no chemistry,” said an anonymous scout.