Bucks respond loudly to Celtics in Game 2

Nick Friar
April 30, 2019 - 10:36 pm

Khris Middleton drilled seven three-pointers in a game once during the 2018-19 regular season. He did so against the New York Knicks. That alone sums up how things went on the defensive end for Boston in the 123-102 loss to the Bucks on Tuesday.

As much as the Bucks said they didn’t need to make adjustments prior to Game 2, it was clear they put an emphasis on creating space for better looks around the arc (33.3 percent in Game 1 vs. 42.6 in Game 2). That and they flat-out took most threes (39 attempts in Game 1 vs. 42 in Game 2).

There was a difference in Milwaukee’s free-throw attempts, but not enough to impact the game. The Bucks took 31 in Game 2 after earning 24 in Game 1. Antetokounmpo did earn eight more attempts, which was the lone outlier. Boston was actually the primary beneficiary of the referees’ approach, earning 27 free throws after only taking eight in Game 1.

Antetokounmpo still had his hands all over the offense (29 points on 7 of 16 shooting) but the Bucks had Eric Bledsoe (21 points on 7 of 12 shooting) and others bring the ball up the floor and start things in the half-court offense. More importantly, the Celtics had no answer to Middleton, who went 10-for-18 from the floor, 7-for-10 from three, to score 28.

The Celtics could not get past the Bucks defensive approach either. Milwaukee was able to force Boston into countless bad shot attempts, which largely centered around the way the Bucks handled Kyrie Irving. Their physical play also helps explain Boston’s increase in free throw attempts.

Irving (4 of 18 for nine points) was met by a swarm of defenders whenever he drove, providing him either a rough look at the rim or a difficult kick-out pass.

Gordon Hayward (five points) rarely looked for his offense, only taking five shots, and Jayson Tatum had another rough showing, also scoring five points, but on 2 of 10 shooting.

Jaylen Brown had his positive moments on the offensive end (5-for-12, 16 points), but Al Horford and Marcus Morris were Boston’s most efficient shooters. However, Horford (6-for-10, 15 points) had five turnovers on the night, with two coming during the Bucks offensive explosion in the third quarter. Morris led Boston with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting, 3-for-4 from deep.

A strong response was expected from Milwaukee in Game 2, but Tuesday’s performance was next-level. Now it’s the Celtics turn to make some changes in their return to the TD Garden on Friday.

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