2022 NBA playoffs: Simulation predicts Celtics vs. Bucks series to go to Game 7

The Boston Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets in their first-round NBA playoff series, and a much tougher challenge awaits in Round 2.

Next up for the C’s is the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, led by superstar forward and two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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The Bucks reportedly are expected to be without star guard Khris Middleton for the entire series because of a Grade 2 MCL sprain he suffered in Milwaukee’s first-round series win over the Chicago Bulls. His absence is a major setback for the Bucks, especially when you look at his history of playoff success against the Celtics.

How will the Celtics-Bucks series play out? Our friends at Strat-O-Matic ran a simulation, and the results were quite interesting. 

Let’s take a look.

Game-by-game breakdown

The series starts out great for the Celtics. Similar to Round 1, they take a 2-0 series lead before going on the road. The Bucks pull even at home, but the Celtics win the pivotal Game 5 to push Milwaukee to the brink of elimination. That’s where the fun ends for the C’s, who lose the next two games, including Game 7 at TD Garden, as their season ends in disappointment.

One theme that jumps out about this series after seeing the simulation results is the high scores of these games. The Celtics allowed the fewest points per game at 104.1 during the regular season, but they give up 121.6 per game in this series. Boston’s elite defense was the primary reason why it swept Brooklyn in dominant fashion in the previous round, but that same defense clearly let the team down versus the Bucks.


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A historical note from this simulation involves the 2-0 series lead the Celtics surrender. Boston has lost only one of the 41 series in which it has jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The only defeat came in 2018 when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated the C’s in the Eastern Conference Finals despite series deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. 

The Celtics and Bucks going to a Game 7 also is nothing new. These teams went the distance in the 1974 NBA Finals, the 1987 Eastern Conference semifinals and 2018 first round.

Notable Player Performances

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both play fantastic in this series, averaging close to 30 points per game. Brown scored 42 in a Game 3 loss and 43 in a Game 5 win. Brown’s hamstring tightness clearly wasn’t an issue in this series.

The bulk of the Bucks’ scoring came from Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, which makes total sense with Middleton out of the lineup.

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The difference in the series was the Bucks’ offensive depth.

Milwaukee had five players average 10-plus points and seven players with at least eight points per game. Boston had four players average eight-plus points. Celtics starting center Robert Williams plays 26 minutes per game but scores only 4.6 points per contest, while Grant Williams chips in just 4.4 points per game. Bucks role player Bobby Portis had a strong series with 10 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

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