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Reply To: NBA • Thursday Service Plays • 2/25/16

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Preview: Milwaukee At Boston

When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Celtics were not pleased with their defensive effort during a 1-2 road trip but will have plenty of time at the team practice facility to iron out those issues over the next three weeks. The Celtics begin a five-game homestand and a stretch of seven of eighth in their own building by hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Modest expectations at the beginning of the season were elevated when Boston went into the All-Star break in third place in the Eastern Conference, and securing a high seed is now one of the goals. “We’re as close to ninth as we are to second,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “That’s real. That’s what it is. … You’re going to have to play these last 25 games as well as you can. You’re not going to feel safe, that’s for sure.” The Bucks are trying to put together a late run at one of those playoff spots in the East and have won four of their last five, beginning with a 112-111 home win over Boston on Feb. 9. Milwaukee is another team trying to figure things out on the defensive end but did enough offensively behind forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double on Monday to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers 108-101.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee), CSN New England (Boston)

ABOUT THE BUCKS (24-33): Milwaukee began its new lineup experiment against the Celtics in that Feb. 9 meeting and has continued to bring center Greg Monroe and point guard Michael Carter-Williams off the bench. “(Monroe) and Michael, it just makes our bench stronger,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd told reporters. “For them to sacrifice, look, everyone wants to start. Those two have the right to say they should be starting, but we have no bench right now. Our bench is hurt. With the move of those two guys, it takes being unselfish and thinking about the team. And those two have done that for us.” Antetokounmpo remains in the starting lineup and is seeing more time handling the ball with the first unit.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (33-25): Boston dropped from third in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense to fifth entering play on Wednesday after allowing the Minnesota Timberwolves to shoot 51.8 percent from the field in a 124-122 loss on Monday. “You get caught up in trying to outscore teams,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley told reporters. “Maybe that is what can happen. Everything is going well in the offensive end and you forget to play defense. That’s where we have to hold each other accountable.” Boston will play 14 of its final 24 games at home, where it has won eight straight.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Celtics G Marcus Smart collected 10 steals in the last three games.

2. Bucks G Jerryd Bayless (hyperextended knee) missed the last three games and is questionable for Thursday.

3. Milwaukee won its last trip to Boston 110-101 on April 3, 2015.

PREDICTION: Celtics 106, Bucks 95