The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will meet in the postseason for the third time in the past five years. Milwaukee dispatched Boston in five games back in 2019. The prior season in 2018, the Celtics defeated the Bucks in a seven-game series.

The Bucks, the reigning NBA champions and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, should have their hands full with the second-seeded Celtics. Not only do the Celtics have home court advantage, but they have played the best basketball in the league for some time.

Boston is fresh off sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the opening round of the 2022 NBA playoffs. Before that, the Celtics finished the regular season winning 33 of their final 43 games following an 18-21 start to the year.

Milwaukee must find a way to defeat Boston without All-Star Khris Middleton, who is expected to miss the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

Simultaneously, the Boston Celtics might be dealing with an important injury of their own. Celtics star forward Jaylen Brown is reportedly dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered during Game 4 vs. the Nets. He is expected to play, but might be hampered.

Before Boston hosts Milwaukee in Game 1 on Sunday, let’s break down the series and why the Celtics will eliminate the Bucks.

1. Jayson Tatum is playing at an MVP level

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the NBA. But Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is also looking the part of a superstar these days. After a stellar regular season, Tatum dominated in the first round against the Nets. He produced per-game marks of 29.5 points, 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the sweep.

Tatum’s shining moment, of course, came in Boston’s Game 1 victory. Tatum connected on a layup as time expired, marking the Celtics’ first playoff buzzer beater since Paul Pierce accomplished the feat in 2010.

It wasn’t just Tatum’s offensive masterpiece that guided the Celtics against the Nets. Tatum locked up Kevin Durant, playing excellent defense against Brooklyn’s superstar forward. Durant had as many turnovers (12) as points when being defended by Tatum, shooting a woeful 3-of-18 from the field.

After outplaying Durant on both sides of the floor, it’s no longer a hot take to say that Tatum is a better all-around player than Durant.

2. The emergence of Grant Williams

While many were rightfully focused on the potential absence of Celtics starting center Robert Williams—who returned from knee surgery in Game 3 of the first-round tilt against the Nets—Boston’s other Williams, Grant, played a massive role in the sweep. Grant Williams, a stellar three-and-D forward, became Boston’s most reliable guy off the bench.

Williams shot a remarkable 41.1 percent from three-point territory in the regular season.  He continued his prowess from downtown in the postseason, connecting on 8-of-16 triples last round. He hit four treys in Game 4 and had a perfect shooting performance in a 17-point showing in Game 2.

In addition to his excellent shooting, Williams did a masterful job defending Durant. He blocked Durant three times and held him to just six made field goals in 70 possessions as the primary defender.

There will be times where Williams will be tasked with defending Antetokounmpo. It’s a challenge containing the two-time MVP who has been nearly unstoppable both driving to the hoop and as a low-post force.

The Celtics will probably throw a number of defenders at Antetokounmpo. That likely includes Tatum, Williams, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford. Their arsenal of defenders gives the club a shot at containing Antetokounmpo, who torched the defensively-challenged Chicago Bulls in the opening round.

Antetokounmpo logged 28.6 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists in the Bucks’ five-game series victory over the Bulls. His scoring figures could dip slightly against Boston, the NBA’s top-rated defense.

3. Khris Middleton’s absence

Khris Middleton (sprained MCL) will miss the entirety of the East Semifinals against Boston. Middleton, Milwaukee’s second-best player, suffered the injury in Game 2 against Chicago. The Bucks won all three of the games Middleton missed in blowout fashion in the opening round against the Bulls. However, the Celtics are a much better squad than the Bulls.

Middleton finished second on the Bucks in scoring with 20.1 points per contest, third in assists (5.4) second in steals (1.2) during the 2021-22 campaign. The Bucks will miss his consistent production offensively. Middleton’s absence will also be felt defensively. A great wing defender, Middleton would be used to guard either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum if healthy.

The Bucks will sorely miss Middleton on both sides of the floor. With Middleton out, the Celtics find themselves on the right side of another short series.

Series Prediction: Celtics in five.