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Milwaukee vs. Boston: Bucks Drop Behind Early, Can’t Catch Up to Celtics

A slow start gave Boston a seemingly insurmountable lead as Milwaukee couldn’t quite get over the mountaintop

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It just wasn’t meant to be for the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, as they fell behind in a big hole early while the Boston Celtics repeatedly pushed them back down the well to emerge victorious, 111-100. Milwaukee trailed Boston by eight, 34-26, after one period, with Milwaukee sticking in the game by virtue of their perfect 12-12 mark at the line and 13 early points from Giannis. Boston continued to push ahead in the second, although Milwaukee chipped away to make it just a 62-49 lead for the Celtics at half. Boston shot a blazing 61.1%, partially a byproduct of Milwaukee’s regressed defense, but that included 9-17 from deep. The Bucks, meanwhile, went just 38.5% from the field and attempted only six threes on the half. Giannis led them with 18 points while Bledsoe had a quiet four.

A teeter-totter third quarter saw Milwaukee fall behind by 20 before working their way back to within seven by the time the fourth quarter started, 88-81. Unfortunately, the Bucks would only close to within seven in the final stretch as Boston made enough Al Horford oops and Kyrie Irving jumpers to put the Bucks away for the second time this season.

Three Main Observations

Giannis picked up right where he left off against Sacramento looking for free throws whenever possible. His career-best 22 attempts in that performance gave way to an 8-9 first half from the stripe tonight. Boston doesn’t have the girth inside to stop him and he turned Jaylen Brown into his personal marionette in the post in the first quarter. His refusal to settle for jumpers in the third and relentlessly punishing the rim helped keep Milwaukee from falling further behind Boston’s obliterating offense. He didn’t quibble from that approach for most of the night, although he settled for a few ill-advised jumpers late with tired legs while trying to get plenty of points back at once.

Milwaukee’s defense seems to have fallen back into the chase and space method that dropped them to the league’s dredges early in the season. Particularly in the first quarter, their hyper-aggressive scheme threw their own players for a loop as Boston exploited it time and again. Boston didn’t find quite as open hits in the second quarter, but they’re a potent enough offensive team against even the league’s finest defense that they could do plenty of damage against even a slightly more locked-in Bucks D. It didn’t look quite as wrecked in the second half either, but Boston was able to manipulate the pick-and-roll for easy alley-oops and finishes down the stretch as Milwaukee went without a true center for the end of the third quarter and through the fourth.

Eric Bledsoe is a fast man. Kyrie Irving is a faster man. Bledsoe played his worst half in a while in tonight’s initial two quarters, looking absent offensively. He picked it up with some timely shooting in the third, but Irving, with his turbo booster speed, made Bledsoe look like molasses at times. His slippery style is practically unmatched by any other guard and for all Bledsoe’s ability to propel through screens, Irving was too quick off the dribble, splitting through screens while going at Ludicrous Speed.

Bonus Bucks Bits

Aron Baynes might have a personal hit out against him and Giannis is hell-bent on bringing this guy down and fulfilling the contract.

Milwaukee once again looked lost on defense to start tonight’s contest. The somewhat less conservative scheme (quite aptly laid out by the must-follow All The Bucks below) seemed to have gone bye bye as Milwaukee went back to their blitzkrieg ways. The result: wide open threes for Boston over and over. Jayson Tatum went 4-4 on his first 3-point attempts from beyond the arc, none of which looked particularly difficult as Milwaukee defenders went flying by Celtics players like Flappy Bird past a pipe.

The Bucks stayed in it for the first 12 minutes due to their willingness to attack the bucket and draw fouls. A perfect 12-12 charity stripe mark, coupled with the fact Tony Snell was the only person to hit a basket outside the restricted area, made for a quarter that could’ve been a lot more bloody given Boston went 5-9 from three.

Nothing like a single play to accentuate two of Thon’s major offensive deficiencies. Early in the first Giannis fed him off a drive in the corner. As Horford flew by Thon, Maker was slow to take a drive into the hoop and attack the basket, instead having to defer to Giannis again in the paint. When Giannis again found him immediately beneath the bucket for an easy look, he couldn’t get up quick enough to hit it before Horford blocked it to smithereens.

In tonight’s “Henson hook pass du jour”, he made a beauitful wraparound pass from beneath the basket out to an awaiting Middleton arouund the arc on the wing for a splashed three. Pretty.

Steve Novak was the welcome voice accompanying Jim Paschke tonight on the broadcast. He did fine. Although he did have an ill-fated, “The Bucks are going to be just fine,” recalling the halftime interview with Josh Broghamer as Kyrie Irving sliced through an apathetic Bucks D in transition for an and-one to put Boston up by 20.

Jayson Tatum is quite the player. Middleton certainly has turtle toes, but Tatum was able to pull some nifty dribble moves to slip by Middleton for a layup under duress while Midds chased him from behind. He had myriad other moves to the basket and stroked a sweet shot from deep. Impressive for a rookie.

Milwaukee was able to get back into the game in the third quarter after falling down 20 due to some timely shooting from Eric Bledsoe including two triples and a pull-up jumper. Giannis chimed in with his own rim rattling attacks, but more importantly the Bucks went to a Center Giannis lineup when Boston went with Theis in the middle. Giannis wasn’t able to take advantage in the halfcourt, settling for a turnaround jumper when posting up Marcus Smart. Milwaukee still managed to make headway though.

Wise vet Jason Terry seemed to come up lame with a calf injury in the fourth quarter and was forced to head into the locker room early. Hopefully he’s okay.

Boston went uber-small down the stretch for a spell when Giannis finally sat for the first time in the second half. Kidd went with a Bledsoe-Brogdon-Snell-Liggins Middleton lineup that ostensibly has Midds as the center I suppose. It sorta looked like a fleet of same-height fourth graders out there before anyone’s even whiffed puberty. Mercifully, it was short-lived with Giannis and Horford re-entering the game.

Thon Maker didn’t appear in tonight’s game for the entire second half.