The Milwaukee Bucks miss Khris Middleton. Their attack was fought in the middle of the field against the Celtics, averaging 84.4 points per 100 possessions on the first shot in the middle of the field, the worst team in the second round of the playoffs and with 10 points per 100 under regular season average. Part of that is Boston’s elite defense, but part of it is how much the Celtics rely on Middleton to create in midfield.
Middleton is out with a 2nd degree MCL sprain to his left knee, and Bucks has not offered any official updates. However, earlier this week, there were rumors that the Bucks were optimistic that Middleton could return if the series lasted long enough. In any case, Brian Windhorst of ESPN brought this down in a recent appearance (Real GM hat tip)
“At the beginning of this week, those I was talking to gave me some optimism about what Middleton will play this weekend, but that didn’t happen. That hasn’t developed, “Windhorst said. “And now I’d say there’s pessimism about Sunday, and honestly I was told that even if Bucks advanced to the conference finals, he’d be pessimistic that he was ready to start.”
In the match 6 on Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo accumulated 44 points, but it was not enough to get the victory. Part of that was Jayson Tatum’s brilliance, but the Bucks had an offensive rating of 82.4 midfield in that game. If Bucks’ defense can’t force rebounds – Boston only had eight in the game – and create some stoppage opportunities, the attack can be blocked. This is directly related to Middleton, All-Star and Olympian, which is a tough pick-and-roll game because it is 6’7 ″ and maybe 3 or punishes a smaller player on a position up. Middleton had an average of 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game this season, and the Bucks had +5.2 per 100 possessions when on the field.
The Bucks reduced their game against the Cavaliers on the final day of the regular season – knowing the Celtics must win to avoid the No. 1 seed. 4 – which placed Milwaukee as No. 1 seed. 3, facing Chicago in the first round, while Boston finished as No. 1 seed. 2 and had to face Kevin Durant and Brooklyn. The price of this strategy comes now, because match 7 will be played on Sunday in Boston (although the road team has won four of the six games so far).