The Milwaukee Bucks started quickly in Boston Friday night. They faded even faster.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 17 of his 27 points in the first quarter to help the Bucks grab an early double-digit lead, but it was all downhill from there as the Celtics dominated the paint and ultimately ran away in the middle two quarters of a 124-109 laugher. Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points on just nine shots to help keep Boston in it early, but it was the Bucks' inability to stop backup big men Tyler Zeller (26 points on 15 shots) and Kelly Olynyk (16 points on 5/5 shooting) that really did them in at the TD Garden on Friday night.
Antetokounmpo hit a career-best 4/5 from deep en route to 27 points (8/12 fg, 7/8 ft), seven assists, and seven rebounds in 27 minutes, but he didn't have much help and sat out the final quarter after picking up his fifth foul late in the third -- three of them on offensive fouls. Jabari Parker added 18 points and five boards in 29 minutes, but missed his final four shots before similarly sitting out the final quarter. Miles Plumlee led the garbage time squad with 16 points on eight shots while Tyler Ennis started and cobbled together 11 assists.
Antetokounmpo got the Bucks off to a blistering start, hitting a pair of threes and getting into the paint at will in scoring 16 of the Bucks' first 24 points. The Celtics defense tried to play a high line but struggled to bring multiple bodies to the ballhandler early, allowing the Bucks to get to the rim for easy buckets (65% shooting) and fouls (7/13 free throws).
Celtics might want to try to pick up Giannis in transition. https://t.co/X47IeTChpY— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) April 8, 2016
Still, the Bucks' defense had its leaky moments as well, as Isaiah Thomas repeatedly got loose and scored a dozen points of his own.
After trailing 30-19, Boston had narrowed it to 35-30 after one and took control in the second, outscoring the Bucks 16-6 to start the quarter, including a flurry of run-outs from Zeller and Olynyk. Much of that offense began with the Celtics' D, which cut off the Bucks' paint looks and frustrated Milwaukee into nine second quarter turnovers. Antetokounmpo splashed his third three midway through the period to help the Bucks edge back ahead 55-54, but the Celtics finished the period on an 11-3 run to lead 65-58 at intermission. Oh, and this is how the half ended:
Your 2015-16 Milwaukee Bucks defense summarized in one GIF. pic.twitter.com/9PHBiXsC4W— Aron Yohannes (@AronYohannes) April 9, 2016
- Boston racked up 21 of their 35 assists in the first half as Boston outscored Milwaukee 42-30 in the paint.
- Given Boston's smallish starting backcourt, Kidd inserted Ennis into the starting five alongside Rashad Vaughn.
- Greivis Vasquez hit his first two shots since returning from ankle surgery. He had gone 0/10 in his first 42 minutes. NOT GREAT.
- Marcus Smart didn't hit a shot (0/2, 4 pts) but dished out nine assists, drew two charges on Giannis (albeit one of them a bad call) and was +22.
- Boston only grabbed four offensive rebounds and took just 14 threes -- mainly because they spent most of the night making layups and dunks en route to 56% shooting from the field. Zeller and Olynyk did a great job running to the rim both in transition and off the ball in the halfcourt, Smart and Evan Turner did a great job looking for them, and at no point did the Bucks seem to catch on to any of this.
- Giannis was the best player on the court from the opening tip, and he also looked like a guy who knew he was the best player on the court -- playing aggressively but under control, taking his time but knowing he had to power the offense. It's not a new phenomenon of course, but it's still so impressive to see Giannis playing with all the confidence in the world.
- Antetokounmpo has hit 6/9 threes over the past two games, and tonight -- after making his first four -- he even jacked up a deep pull-up that might qualify as the first real heat check three of his career. It's too early to say this is a trend, but it's certainly encouraging.
Giannis ...16 in the first quarter https://t.co/9FmHV10Blk— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) April 9, 2016
- In the second quarter Antetokounmpo ran a P&R where he used a screen to get Turner on his hip, shielded him with his backside, and then drew another Boston defender to set up Monroe for a layup. Savvy stuff for a 6'11" kid who's still trying to figure out the point guard position.
- We've talked about this before, but the next step for Parker is figuring out how to carry the load offensively when Giannis or Middleton aren't on the court with him. He scored 10 in the first quarter alongside Giannis, looking active around the basket in his usual way. Then he went scoreless in the second, much of it with Giannis on the bench, before adding eight quick points in the third. Unfortunately, he then missed his last four shots after Giannis went to the bench with five fouls, repeatedly getting stuck shooting awkwardly from in-between areas. You can tell he was trying to stay aggressive, but the Celtics effectively clogged the paint and blocked him twice.
- John Henson got into it with the Celtics' bigs in the fourth quarter, though it was tough to tell how much of it was in good fun (he was chatting up his former UNC teammate Zeller during free throws on multiple occasions) and how much of it was something else. He seemed to throw an elbow at Jonas Jerebko on a three point play where Jerebko was whistled for a foul, and they started chattering at one another immediately thereafter. After Jerebko cut to the basket for a dunk on the ensuing possession, Henson settled for a bizarre step-back jumper that almost went in.
- Rashad Vaughn struggled early but got it going a little in garbage time, finishing with 12 points on 5/12 shooting and 2/7 from three in 40 minutes. Considering he entered the game shooting 30.4% from the field, that has to qualify as a good night, eh?