NBA playoffs 2019/Bucks vs. Celtics: 3 things that could decide the series

This promises to be a good one.

The Celtics and Bucks will face off in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Game 1 set for Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC). Both teams enter the series coming off of sweeps, as the Bucks dominated the Pistons from start to finish while Boston went unchallenged by the Pacers.  

Boston and Milwaukee are two of the most talented teams in the conference, and the floor will be filled with stars throughout the series.

Here are three things that could decide the matchup.

The Celtics’ chemistry 

The Celtics entered the season as the favorites to win the East after reaching the conference finals in 2017-18, but they were inconsistent for large stretches.

Boston was just 20-14 at one point in late December and it lost four in a row as recently as last month. Since then, however, the Celtics finished with wins in six of their last eight regular-season games and looked dominant in their four playoff matchups against the Pacers.

The Celtics, led by Kyrie Irving, appear to be hitting their stride at the right time, which could pose a threat to the top-seeded Bucks.  

Malcolm Brogdon’s potential return

The Bucks’ playoff rotation could get even deeper.

Milwaukee is expecting Malcolm Brogdon to be back on the court at some point this round, coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters earlier this week, though he likely won’t play in the series’ first two games. The 26-year-old guard has been out since suffering a minor plantar fascia tear in his right foot in mid-March.

Brogdon had a fantastic season, as he averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 28.6 minutes per game. He’s a knockdown shooter and also a solid creator next to Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Brogdon’s return — as long as he’s completely healthy — will provide a big boost to Milwaukee’s offense.

Boston’s options to guard Giannis

Antetokounmpo will be a matchup nightmare for Boston.

The 24-year-old has developed into one of the best players in the NBA and is the front-runner to win the MVP award this season. At 6-11, he’s difficult to stop in transition and when he attacks the rim.

The Celtics could start with Jaylen Brown on Antetokounmpo, and Gordon Hayward also should spend time covering him. Depending on lineup construction, center Al Horford may be asked to guard him, as well.

None of these options is ideal, but the Celtics will need to find one that works in order to win the series. The absence of Marcus Smart — who’s sidelined with an oblique injury — has a chance to hurt Boston here, as he’s the team’s best defender.