They fell short after coming frustratingly close on Sunday afternoon, but the Milwaukee Bucks get another shot at the Boston Celtics tonight, in Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Milwaukee must have been kicking themselves on Sunday night; despite a sloppy game loaded with mistakes, the Bucks had a 105-104 lead with 3:00 left in overtime. Boston simply capitalized on more mistakes than they made themselves, and Milwaukee goes into Game 2 knowing that they could have had the first one.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton carried the team, and while John Henson and Malcolm Brogdon both made positive contributions, more was expected from guys like Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker.
Bucks confident they can get more from Jabari Parker, role players in Game 2 https://t.co/KBfwFBjuLg pic.twitter.com/vZo6anW8vF— JSOnline - Bucks (@js_bucks) April 16, 2018
Parker, in particular, drew ire from a number of fans for his lack of urgency, especially the play that ended up getting Joe Prunty to pull him from the game, shown below:
Tatum whips the ball down low to Brown who finishes with ease! pic.twitter.com/gUjUE66FMw— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 15, 2018
Jabari has avoided the media (understandably so) since Game 1 ended, but seems to have the faith of his teammates:
“I know Jabari’s going to come out being more comfortable and definitely being more aggressive,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve got to do a better job, too, of finding him. ... He didn’t have a great Game 1 but he’s going to have a great Game 2 because that’s what Jabari does.”
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
Despite Jabari’s struggles, Bledsoe has become something of a bellweather for the team. When he’s successful, the team is largely successful, and Bledsoe struggled mightily on Sunday. On the fateful stepback three from Terry Rozier, it wasn’t his dazzling dribbling that sent Bledsoe stumbling to the foul line, but rather he caught Bledsoe peeking at an off-ball screen that he habitually would try and sniff out:
Terry Rozier hits the late-game, stepback 3-pointer in tonight's @JetBlue Play of the Game! pic.twitter.com/05MTnhpSM1— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 15, 2018
Eric Bledsoe is a fantastically-talented player who has learned to trust his instincts and his athleticism, and in this instance it actually betrayed him. Had he stayed up on Rozier, the shot might have been contested...but the game went to overtime anyways (thanks, Khris!)
Khris says, "Let's keep playing."#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/2xVwGtKlF4— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 15, 2018
Boston was collectively beaming after scraping together a scrappy Game 1 win, where they at least answered one of the major questions they had coming into this series: How is Boston going to score enough to keep up with Milwaukee?
For Boston to succeed this postseason, they have to work to create offense and they have to be smarter than their opponents. Despite flashes at times, none of the Celtics are going to regularly create much offense one-on-one. This is where the team misses Irving the most. When things break down, who is going to bail them out? Despite some incredible shot-making at times during Game 1, that question largely remains unanswered. By putting themselves in position to get good looks through execution, the Celtics can avoid having to create one-on-one. For the first game of the playoffs, they were able to do so and it made all the difference.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each made major contributions, but the hero of the Celtics ought to be Al Horford, both for his stellar defensive presence and his late-game post play against Giannis. Horford was able to hold of Antetokounmpo and fool him into reaching, sending Horford to the line to manufacture points for the offensively-challenged Celtics squad.
Player to Watch: Marcus Morris
Ever the X-factor, Morris is a boom-or-bust proposition off the bench. He boomed in Game 1 with 21 points (on 20 shots), which is a 50% increase on his season average (13.6), and he routinely made hustle plays that took the wind out of the Bucks’ sails. One of Morris’ weaknesses is his propensity to commit fouls, and even though he (and everybody else, honestly) got away with some stuff in Game 1, there’s no guarantee that he’ll have the same luck next time.