Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Game 7 preview: Celtics host Bucks in decisive final game

al-horford-giannis-antetokounmpo-042818-ftr
Boston Celtics center Al Horford guards Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks (Getty Images)

The overtime thriller between Boston and Milwaukee in Game 1 of the first round indicated this series could go the distance. 13 days later, the Celtics and Bucks square off for the opportunity to take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

Game 7. Win, or go home.

Each team has protected its home floor in the first six games of the series, which is a good sign for the 2 seed Celtics. Boston's 14-point win in Game 2 was its biggest margin of victory in the series as Games 1 and 5 were decided down the stretch.

The Bucks have shown that they can keep things close at TD Garden, but a complete effort is needed to get them over the hump. It starts on the defensive end.

In Milwaukee's Game 6 win, its defense held the Celtics to 86 points on 37 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent from 3-point range. The Bucks also held Boston to just four fast-break points for the game.

The Celtics inability to get out and score in transition was extremely detrimental, as their offense became stagnant in the half court. Head coach Brad Stevens cited overdribbling and holding the ball as the chief reasons for the poor offensive output. Expect Boston to move the ball better in Game 7, providing good looks for Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who combined to shoot 7-of-24 from beyond the arc in Game 6.

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In addition to the team's perimteter shooting, Al Horford's importance on the offensive end cannot be stressed enough. After scoring 22 points in Boston's Game 5 win, the All-Star center finished with only 10 points in its Game 6 loss. Horford's offensive impact will largely dictate the outcome of Game 7.

Defensively, Boston will continue to look for ways to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo down. In Game 6, the Bucks All-Star forward finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Stevens was mostly unsuccessful in using Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart on defense in hopes of slowing The Greek Freak down. When Antetokounmpo is aggressive on the offensive end, he becomes virtually unstoppable and the rest of the Bucks reap the benefits.

As Antetokounmpo (26.3 points per game) and Khris Middleton (23.5 points per game) have been the most consistent Bucks in the series, the performances of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker and Jabari Parker are crucial in Game 7. Each of the four have shown the capability of spacing the floor out by knocking down perimeter jump shots.

Parker made his mark in Game 6 by scoring seven first half points and making a number of effort plays that do not show up on the stat sheet, while Maker has impacted games on both ends of the floor with his shooting and shot-blocking.

In its franchise history, Milwaukee is 2-7 in Game 7, while the Celtics are 22-8. The Bucks are looking to become just the sixth 7 seed to advance past No. 2 in the first round of the playoffs since 1984.

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