Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

USA Today Sports

Celtics could end Bucks with Game 2 win

Nick Friar
April 30, 2019 - 2:18 pm

Game 2 is an absolute must-win for the Milwaukee Bucks. They’ve already lost home-court advantage and a loss on Tuesday creates serious potential for a sweep, as crazy as that may sound. So the Celtics can’t literally end the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday, but that can make it damn near impossible for Milwaukee to mount a comeback.

That’s not just from a mathematical standpoint either. If the Celtics can out-strategize Milwaukee again, they will have nowhere else to turn. Based on what we saw in Game 1, the triumphant return of Malcolm Brogden isn’t going to make that much of a difference, no matter what resident Bucks expert Glenn Ordway might try to tell you. And as much as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer said adjustments are overrated, there’s no chance Milwaukee comes out with the same exact offensive game plan in Game 2; unless they want to get embarrassed again.

The Bucks have to find a way to rack up more points by either freeing up space for Antetokounmpo or relying on others to drive to the rim. That seems fairly obvious. How they go about that is less so. But, if Brad Stevens and his staff find a way to limit Milwaukee’s offense again, that could take away whatever confidence the Bucks still have and push their chemistry to its limits — something the Celtics know plenty about.

We got a little taste of that in Game 1 with Antetokounmpo. He was pressing to create offense by any means necessary. Heck, he even resorted to the three-ball. Antetokounmpo had to be the one to get his team out of the rut after the Celtics bounced back from Milwaukee’s 15-0 run. When he couldn’t do that, the Bucks floundered.

The Bucks could try to make adjustments on the defensive end, as well.

George Hill didn’t exactly lock down Kyrie Irving in Game 1, so that’s one adjustment the Bucks could make. In fact, Milwaukee’s best approach might be to stick Khris Middleton or someone else on Irving, leave that matchup alone and make it a point to slow down the rest of the C’s. It’s a risky move, but the Bucks would probably have a tougher time shutting down Irving and forcing the rest of the Celtics to produce. Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford have each had standout performances in playoffs. Any pairing of those four could throw off the Bucks game plan, sending them into a tailspin.

Now, this is still the Milwaukee team that had the best defensive rating (104.9) in the regular season. They’re no slouches. But this clearly isn’t the same Celtics team we saw for 82 regular season games. If the Bucks can’t see that, they truly have no chance of winning this series.