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By now Customized Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jerseys , the Boston Celtics have come to expect adversity.

They were barely five minutes into the season when Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury offered the first collective gasp in what would be an 82-game schedule replete with more head-shaking moments.

The most recent setback, season-ending knee surgery for Kyrie Irving, left teams in the East almost hoping for a chance to face the wounded Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

Boston enters as the No. 2 seed. But it is certainly vulnerable opposite a seventh-seeded Bucks team with which it split four games this season. Milwaukee is led by one of the league’s budding young talents in 23-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo.

If there is a silver lining for the Celtics it’s that they went 14-8 without Irving for the last 22 games.

”It’s forcing our group to grow up quicker than maybe some of our guys were supposed to,” forward Al Horford said. ”I think that this is a great opportunity that we have in front of us. We’ve really worked hard all year to put ourselves in this position.”

Antetokounmpo is entering his third postseason and already has turned into a marquee player. He averaged 33.5 points this season against the Celtics, more than any player. His next step is to lead the Bucks to a victory in a playoff series.

”Right now, (the) playoffs is not about stats. It’s all about winning,” Antetokounmpo said. ”It’s going to be a long road. We’re going to try to go to the end.”

Trying to slow him must be a team effort, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

”We’ll have to guard him with everybody on our team,” he said. ”It’s not on one person to guard Giannis. We have to throw a lot of different bodies at him.”

Some things to watch in Bucks vs. Celtics:

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Injuries aside, Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon expects Boston to be tough.

”It’s another level, I think we all know that Authentic Bradley Chubb Jersey ,” Brogdon said. ”I think we gotta not be distracted by all the outside noise, by what people expect us to do or what another team is lacking. I think we have to go in and we have to play our game.”

FILLING IRVING’S SHOES

With Irving out, the Celtics will look to key their offense with third-year guard Terry Rozier. He’s played the best ball of his career this season, appearing in 80 games (16 starts) and averaging career highs in points (11.3), rebounds (4.7) and assists (2.9).

”I got to control the game, basically just filling what a point guard is supposed to do – filling Kyrie’s shoes as much as I can,” he said. ”Sometimes it might mean taking tough shots and making tough shots. … Do what I can to give this team and boost and put us in position to win.”

FIRST DEFENSE

The Bucks are stocked with talent. But consistent defense has been a problem. At times, they’ve been blown out in the first quarter, forcing them to expend more effort to get back into the game. At worst, it turns into an outcome like the one that played out in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia, which turned into a lopsided lead for the streaking 76ers by halftime. Antetokounmpo said the team has lacked focus at times. They can’t make that mistake against the Celtics.

”I think understanding the tendencies Authentic Oren Burks Jersey , understanding your roles, understanding assignments, all of those things become paramount because each possession is important,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said.

NEW GUYS

The Bucks basically have the same core back from the team that lost in the first round to Toronto last season. They add two key pieces to the mix in point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Jabari Parker. Both players are proven scorers. Bledsoe played well down the stretch, when his 3-point shooting picked up. Parker looks back at full strength after missing the first three-plus months rehabbing the second knee injury of his career.



AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas in Milwaukee contributed to this report.



More NBA basketball: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay expects Andrew Luck to be his old self next season.

If trading the third overall pick or adding two of the best offensive linemen in this year's NFL draft wasn't enough to convince doubters, perhaps the acknowledgment that the Colts turned down trade inquiries for Luck will.

At an impromptu news conference during Saturday's draft, Irsay acknowledged the Colts had been contacted by other teams interested in Luck and the Colts had no interest in dealing ther face of the franchise. General manager Chris Ballard later clarified those initial contacts were made during the 2017 season.

"Look, we had some calls last year at the trade deadline and I said, 'We're not taking those seriously,'" Ballard said. "I said, 'I'm not putting that on my resume.'"

Luck Rashaan Gaulden Jersey Panthers , the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, missed all of last season after having surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

He's been on the field for Indy's offseason workouts, but still isn't throwing a regulation-sized football.

Earlier this week, Ballard acknowledged the Colts wouldn't have made the March deal with the New York Jets to move back three spots if they didn't believe Luck was healthy.

Irsay went even further Saturday, less than 48 hours after the Colts selected guard Quenton Nelson, the highest-rated offensive lineman in the draft, at sixth overall. On Friday, they drafted another guard, Braden Smith, at No. 37.

"Trust me, there are people who would have given an unprecedented amount of draft picks for him Babe Ruth Jersey , all with a No. 1 behind them and we wouldn't even consider it," Irsay said. "He (Luck) is our guy and we're confident about that. Let's just say, I think the rest of the league is anticipating him to return and play great."

They need him.

Without Luck, the Colts endured their first losing season since 2011 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year.

But if Luck is healthy, Irsay believes the complexion of the Colts could change.

"Only Andrew can decide how far we are away because he's a magic man and there are only a few magic men and you know who they are," Irsay said. "But if he's healthy and he's back, he makes up for a lot of deficiencies. Can he take you all the way? We'll have to see how good Chris is at plugging the holes on defense and things like that."
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