In fact, both teams should be approaching the other with caution, as each have guys with boatloads of playoff experience on board, key for surviving tight series, which this may turn out to be. But how do each of these teams stack up against each other in terms of overall playoff experience? With the help of NBAMath.com, I decided to take a look.
As I alluded, Boston and Milwaukee each have a well-heeled playoff veteran on their roster each, though their roles could not be more different. Both Al Horford and Jason Terry have nearly as much postseason experience as any active player in the league - only 15 players still in the game have more (Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Draymond Green, Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala rank above Terry, and Klay Thompson and Terry above Horford).
For the purposes of this exercise, NBAMath is quantifying playoff experience in a distinct way, which they describe here:
"Winning titles can’t be all that matters. Basketball is, after all, a team sport. No matter how well an individual performs, he isn’t earning any hardware without support from the players surrounding him. But team success also has to factor in, and that’s why Playoff Score contains two distinct elements: Individual Score and Advancement Share. Together, they give credit to contributors for longevity, performance and team success (adjusted for their impact on the proceedings). Longevity is represented by games played—a rather simple way to measure how long a player’s postseason career lasted. Some standouts made a number of deep runs into the playoffs over a shorter period of time. But purely in terms of longevity, that shouldn’t be any more valuable than a plethora of early exits over a lengthy stretch. Individual performance is measured by looking at Game Score, a John Hollinger creation that takes box-score figures and produces a singular output meant to function on the same scale as points. A game score of 10 is considered average, while 40 is outstanding."
Pretty straightforward - how deep they went, and how well they did while doing so. So how does it break down for each team? Let's take a look.
Here, we can see the two veterans atop the field of the two combined rosters by a considerable margin - Terry and Horford outpace everyone by about a five-to-one ratio. Terry even has a significant lead over Al in these metrics, but in practice, it's Horford's experience that has a much bigger impact, given he's playing many more meaningful minutes in this series.
After that, Matthew Dellavedova, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton sit fairly close together in playoff experience, probably negating the per-minute impact of Horford over Terry. After those three come Terry Rozier and Eric Bledsoe - fittingly enough - and after last night's action going a ways towards salvaging Derrick Breadstick's, - er, Eric Bledsoe's - reputation, I'd grant Boston a very slight edge.
Then, bringing up the rear guard, we have two trios - Jaylen Brown, Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe for Boston, and Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Tony Snell for Milwaukee. All six aren't far apart here, either, but again, the advantage goes to the Celtics, as advancement shares evaporate after Zeller. Two more pairs of opposing players round out those with a double-digit individual score - Marcus Morris and Malcolm Brogdon, followed by Thon Maker and Jayson Tatum, who, despite having an outstanding regular season, has been consistently outshone by older Jay-Team member Jaylen in the postseason.
The rest of the two rosters may have had some meaningful minutes in spots, but haven't really done much to sway this single series they have participated in, with the remaining players for each team contributing to this and only this series in a minor way (with players like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward excluded entirely given the near-impossibility of either returning at all this season, never mind series).
While I don't think these combined metrics are especially useful in some scenarios (Horford and Terry illustrate experience without playing time to employ it isn't very helpful, and despite all the postseason experience on the Cleveland Cavaliers, you'd have to be wearing wine-and-gold tinted lenses to think they'd beat the Golden State Warriors), given the Celtics' injured state and the 2-2 regular season series split, I think it shows the Cs have the tools to win with home court under their belt.
Ultimately, metrics are only as good as the things they measure and the relevance of how they are being employed, so something as fuzzy as "playoff experience" - even when analyzed along team and individual performance - won't account for things as complicated as the psychological and physiological strain of playing without your best players (or with an experienced, competent coach) for much of the season, as well as very simple things, like age, athleticism, and minutes played in the present.
So, take all this with a grain of salt, but I found the data set created by the folks at NBA Math quite interesting - hopefully, you readers do, too. If you want to read more about the all-time leaders in league history (many of whom are, predictably, Celtics), check out this data set here.