5-on-5: Celtics vs. Bucks (Game 46 of 66)

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Paul Pierce and the Celtics are hoping to slow the surging Bucks.Each Thursday during the season we join forces with our friends and TrueHoop partner CelticsHub for a game of 5-on-5 tackling key issues surrounding the Celtics. In this week's edition, we offer thoughts on Kevin Garnett's position shuffle, Jermaine O'Neal's two-year stint in Boston, and also preview tonight's Eastern Conference battle between the Boston Celtics (24-21, 8-13 away) and Milwaukee Bucks (21-24, 11-9 home) at the Bradley Center (8 p.m., CSN). Like the Celtics, we're a bit shorthanded (call it 4-on-5), but soldiering on.

Bucks vs. Celtics on Thursday night. What happens and who wins?

* Brian Robb: I see a tough loss against a Bucks team looking very strong on the offensive end. New additions Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh have appeared to fit in well so far, giving additional firepower and depth to a squad that is knocking on the door of the eighth seed in the East. Look for the Bucks to attack the offensive glass and feast on Boston’s inferior second unit on their way to a 95-90 win.

* Chris Forsberg: Don’t want to overhype this one, but Thursday’s game is kinda huge. Sure, the Celtics are just a game back of Philly (the team it plays Friday) for the top spot in the Atlantic Division (the winner of which will vault to the No. 4 seed in the East). But the Bucks (six straight wins) and Knicks (five straight wins) are surging and Boston’s schedule looks incredibly daunting the rest of the way. You assume both Milwaukee and New York will level off at some point, every head-to-head win is important at this point. With two days off, Boston should have the energy to win this game, but it’s gotta lean on its defense.

* Hayes Davenport: The Bucks haven’t scored less than 105 points in 7 games. The Celtics haven’t scored more than 105 points in 9 games. I think the Celtics could keep it close if Ellis and Brandon Jennings develop “big game” egos and try to compete for who can shoot the most. But I think it’s more likely Drew Gooden pulls in a bunch of rebounds and Ersan Ilyasova abuses Bass. Bucks 99, Celtics 94.

* Michael Pina: On March 7th, the Bucks lost to the Chicago Bulls on a game-winning buzzer beater by Derrick Rose. They haven’t lost since. The Celtics are well rested, fresh off a thankful escape from Atlanta. Both teams are on the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings looking up, and neither wants to duel with Chicago or Miami in the first round, so as far as levels of intensity go, this game could feel, well, intense. What I’m most looking forward to in this one is whether Doc Rivers goes to a Rondo/Bradley tandem if Ray Allen has a difficult time defending Ellis. The Jennings/Ellis combination is a difficult one to deal with if you don’t have the personnel, but at least in certain stretches, the Celtics certainly do.

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