Apr 17, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) shoots against Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso (6) during the fourth quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
- The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics will face off in the second round of the NBA Playoffs starting Sunday, May 1st
- The Celtics are favored at -205 odds entering the series, with the Bucks’ odds listed at +170 to win
- Can Milwaukee still defeat Boston without Khris Middleton for most or all of the series?
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics continue on in the Eastern Conference playoffs, both advancing to the second round of the postseason to now square off in a best-of-seven series this weekend.
The second-seeded Celtics and the third-seeded Bucks begin their highly-anticipated series on Sunday, May 1st in Boston, with the winner of the series advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. Milwaukee and Boston faced off four times in the regular season, splitting that series 2-2, and both have top-three odds to win the Eastern Conference.
One key development heading into the series is the status of Milwaukee All-Star Khris Middleton, who will reportedly miss the entirety of the series after suffering a left MCL injury in the first round. That exclusion of a key piece to the Bucks rotation will impact Milwaukee’s chances of coming out on top in the series, and the betting odds have reflected exactly that.
Bucks vs Celtics Series Odds
Odds as of April 28th from DraftKings Sportsbook
Middleton Injury Update
Middleton suffered his knee injury during Game 2 against Chicago on April 20th, an injury that was initially reported to keep the All-Star sidelined for at least a remainder of the first round series and likely for around 3-4 weeks.
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) April 21, 2022
On Thursday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Middleton’s injury is a Grade 2 MCL sprain and could keep his off the court even longer, reporting the All-Star is expected to miss the entire second-round series against the Celtics. Charania noted the typical recovery time for Grade 2 MCL sprains also places an uncertainty around Middleton returning for a potential Conference Finals appearance as well.
The left MCL injury of Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton is a Grade 2 sprain and he is expected to miss the entire second-round series vs. Celtics, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The recovery of Grade 2 MCL places a potential Conference Finals in jeopardy for him as well.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 28, 2022
Without Middleton, Milwaukee still cruised to a 4-1 series win over Chicago, going 3-0 after his injury to advance to the second round. Even though the Bucks have played well without Middleton, his continued absence will make an impact in the next round now facing a tough Boston squad.
Bucks Reserves Need to Continue to Step Up
All season long, Middleton has been a key piece to the Bucks alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. During the regular season, Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game, adding averages of 14.5 points, seven assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals in two playoff games.
Even in past years, Middleton has been the player closing out games and hitting big shots in key moments for Milwaukee to push the team to victory in big games. That absence will be felt as the playoffs continue to progress, with Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and the reserves having to step up to fill the void.
Khris Middleton knocks down the 3…AND-1 🎯
— NBA (@NBA) April 21, 2022
Bobby Portis has entered the Bucks starting lineup in Middleton’s place, averaging 16 points and 13 rebounds in his new starting role. Portis will need to continue to step up both offensively and defensively, although that will be put to the test against the trio of Boston’s Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Grant Williams in the post.
Other players such as Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen will be worth keeping an eye on for Milwaukee as they provide a spark to the second unit. That duo has not only helped pick up the scoring load left behind by Middleton, but have hit some big shots in key moments for the Bucks which will be key against a below-average bench group on the Celtics.
“It’s not about how many points you score or how many rebounds you get. It’s about being solid, knowing your role, being a star in your role, and doing what you do to help the team win”
Bobby Portis on his energy and understanding his role. pic.twitter.com/M5y7dG74Hc
— NBA (@NBA) April 23, 2022
Can Milwaukee Limit Tatum and Brown?
One area Middleton has made a different for the Bucks has been on the defense end of the floor, carrying a Defensive Win Shares of 2.2 this season. Milwaukee as a team has a defensive rating of 94.4 this postseason, the best mark among playoff teams.
That defense will be put to the test against Boston, which has an offensive rating of 119.2 during the playoffs (second-best rating among postseason teams). Middleton’s exclusion could open the door for a big series for Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have led Boston in scoring during the playoffs. As much as the Celtics will try and limit Antetokounmpo offensively, the Bucks need to do the same with the duo of Tatum and Brown.
The difference in this series could come down to who wins that chess match of limiting the other team’s star players, and which second unit picks up the pace enough when and if that does take place. Without Middleton, that limits the amount of stars for Milwaukee, while Boston is fully healthy and playing well.
It’s hard for any team to have to replace an All-Star player such as Middleton, but Milwaukee has no choice in trying to deal with exactly that in the series against Boston. How the Bucks adjust and recover on the fly will be key to watch in the series.
Mitchell has over seven years of experience in journalism, marketing, communications and digital fields, having covered sports teams and leagues on all levels. He has spent more than five years covering the WNBA and NBA, among other sports. You can follow him on Twitter @M_Hansen13.