National Basketball Association
Bucks-Celtics Preview
National Basketball Association

Bucks-Celtics Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 11:59 p.m. ET

One of the league's shortest point guards has the playoff-bound Boston Celtics playing well down the stretch, while one of the tallest in NBA history has given the Milwaukee Bucks reason to be optimistic about the future.

Isaiah Thomas will try to help the host Celtics keep the pressure on in the race for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference with their fourth straight win Friday night against 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo and the banged-up Bucks.

Boston has won seven of nine but is having its own injury issues as starting forward Jae Crowder tries to work his way back from an ankle sprain that left him sidelined three weeks in March. He's shot 35.7 percent in three games since returning.

"I gotta take these next few games and just try to push it, push it, push it, and just try to get in the best shape I can going into the playoffs," Crowder told the team's official website.


Top reserve Evan Turner hopes to return after missing Wednesday's 104-97 home win over New Orleans because of an eye abrasion. Marcus Smart says he's fine despite getting a gash on his face that knocked him out of the game and required four stitches.

Thomas has picked up the slack offensively for the Celtics (46-32), who are among four teams separated by less than two games between the third and sixth seeds in the East. The 5-foot-9 playmaker led the way with 32 points and eight assists against the Pelicans.

Since March 1, Thomas ranks among the conference leaders with 26 points per game while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. He paced Boston with 27 points and seven assists in a 112-107 home win over Milwaukee in the most recent meeting Feb. 25.

''I'm just going to keep going, keep grinding and being in attack mode,'' Thomas said. ''That's what my team needs from me and I'm gonna continue to do that."

Antetokounmpo has been aggressive since coach Jason Kidd made him the team's primary ballhandler. Two nights after scoring a career-high 34 against Chicago, he just missed his sixth triple-double of the season Tuesday with 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in a 109-80 home loss to Cleveland.

"The stat sheet says (Antetokounmpo) almost had another triple-double, but the big thing is we have to play harder," Kidd said.

"The Greek Freak" has averaged 19 points, 8.4 boards and 7.8 assists in his last 22 games.

The last matchup with a 14-plus inch height difference between starting point guards was Feb. 15, 2005, when Boris Diaw of Atlanta (6-8) faced off against Earl Boykins of Denver (5-5). Of course, Thomas and Antetokounmpo aren't likely to defend one another.

"You're not going to match your point guard with him just because he brings the ball up the floor," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "Whether he plays the 1 or the 3 for them in their offense doesn't really impact us a whole lot as far as how we have to prepare."

Stevens also has to be concerned with 6-11 center Greg Monroe, who has averaged 22 points and 11.3 rebounds while Milwaukee has lost two of three in the season series.

The Bucks (32-46) have dropped seven of nine heading into this meeting. It certainly hasn't helped that they've been without injured leading scorer Khris Middleton (18.2 points per game) and reserve Jerryd Bayless, whose statuses are uncertain.


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