Despite the seeding disadvantage, Milwaukee was widely considered to have a legitimate chance at the upset over the Celtics, due in no small part to the absences of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Marcus Smart. The first quarter was dreadful for Milwaukee (8 turnovers), and the second quarter was equally dreadful for Boston (7 points in the first nine minutes of the period). After some more back-and-forth in the third quarter (ending with Bucks down four points, 70-66), Milwaukee gave the Celtics too many chances in the fourth and had to rely on a PREPOSTEROUS three-point attempt at the end of regulation. But...
MIDDLETON SENDS GAME ONE TO OVERTIME AT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/T9IafAOBaf— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) April 15, 2018
Overtime was more of the same for Milwaukee, where they would make a handful of good plays but end up making enough mistakes for Boston to eke out a lead, shutting the window for an early series win for good.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vacillated between taking over the game and getting stonewalled by Al Horford. Horford hammered Giannis early and often in the post, but Horford has enough basketball IQ to avoid getting caught. Giannis still had a strong showing, ending up with 35 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals, but fouled out in overtime while scrapping for a rebound. Khris Middleton was a steadying presence throughout, and finished the game at 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Middleton was exactly what the Bucks needed him to be, and at times he was more.
THIS IS THE KHRIS WE'VE WANTED TO SEE https://t.co/LFnRFMYZG4— Mitchell Maurer (@Mitchell_NBA) April 15, 2018
Playoff John Henson made an appearance, with 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Malcolm Brogdon, who just recently returned from his quad injury, was uneven but put in 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, including a huge three late and a big layup in overtime.
Two of the Bucks’ other impact players, Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker, struggled to make a positive impression. Bledsoe (9 points on 4/12 shooting, 4 assists vs. 5 turnovers, fouled out in overtime) couldn’t get shots to fall, and Parker (2 points on 1/5 shooting, minus-14 in the game) played legitimately terrible defense too often in a playoff game. The Bucks needed just a decent showing from one of them in order to put the Celtics in a tough position, but they’ll have to wait until next time to get it.
For Boston, they may not have lit up the scoreboard but they generally punished the Bucks for mistakes. Jaylen Brown (20 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) and Jayson Tatum (19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) lived up to their billing coming into this contest, and the aforementioned Horford cashed out with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals, and seemingly every strong defensive stop on a driving Buck. Marcus Morris (21 points and 7 rebounds off the bench) had a number of high-effort plays that kept things going in Boston’s favor, and generally irritated the Bucks. Terry Rozier (23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) hit a huge three with 0.5 seconds remaining in the fourth, after badly shaking Eric Bledsoe’s defense.
Stat That Stood Out
20 turnovers. Milwaukee’s mistakes were varied, but the most damaging were those they made with the ball. Particularly in the first quarter, too many of the Bucks’ passes were tossed a second too late, allowing a collapsing Celtic to deflect it and take possession. The Bucks did force 15 turnovers from Boston, but the disparity was one of the major drivers of the game.
They say that a playoff series is only truly a series when the away team wins a game. The Bucks will have another chance to “start” the series on Tuesday night, but losing today’s contest by exercising poor ball discipline, expecting foul calls from playoff-level refs, and generally failing to force Boston out of their preferred spots was a frustrating experience. Milwaukee still has the overall talent to hang with, and even take down, the Celtics in a series, but they will need to capitalize on opportunities to do so. Chalk up Game 1 as a missed opportunity, and we’ll see you next time for Game 2!