AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Paul Pierce and the Celtics visit the Bucks on Saturday night.The Boston Celtics (9-7, 4-3 away) visit the Milwaukee Bucks (7-7, 3-4 home) on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Here's what to watch for:
* BUCKS A TREND: In a league with 30 teams, this is improbably the third time this season these two teams will meet. The Bucks spoiled Boston's home-opener with a 99-88 triumph at TD Garden and Boston got revenge in Milwaukee eight days later with a 96-92 victory. While Boston won't see the Knicks, an Atlantic Division rival, for the first time until early January, the Celtics and Bucks will have already concluded their four-game season series by that point. Milwaukee comes back to the Garden on Dec. 21 and accounts for four of Boston's first 26 games overall this season. Needless to say, familiarity won't be an issue, though the Bucks catch a break with Rajon Rondo serving the back half of a two-game suspension.
* ANOTHER TEST FOR LEE: Coming off his best all-around effort in a Celtics uniform, particularly on the defensive end, Courtney Lee will likely be called upon to help control the Bucks' potent backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Lee and Jason Terry did a nice job limiting rookie Damian Lillard's success in the pick-and-roll on Friday, but Jennings and Ellis will look to turn this thing into a track meet as the Bucks thrive in transition. Jennings had a big game in Boston, while Ellis got hot in Milwaukee during the last meeting.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The game plan will be the same for Boston: Force a half-court game by taking away Milwaukee's ability to run. The Bucks rank fourth in transition offense, but are 29th in half-court sets. Defensively, the Bucks are middle of the pack, but the Celtics were able to lean on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett the last visit.
* WEATHERING THE STORM: As their record hammers home, the Celtics have been up and down all season. The team keeps showing encouraging signs, only to regress. Boston has also often allowed lesser-quality opponents to hang around (see last week's overtime win in Orlando after beating Oklahoma City two days earlier). The Celtics took care of business on Friday and now have a chance to send themselves into a three-day break with some momentum. What's more, they can do it while having endured Rondo's absence for the suspension. That will do wonders for this team's confidence, which could use a boost with an uptick in strength of schedule approaching this month.