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2018 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee vs. Boston: Hot Shooting Bucks Somehow Stifled by Celtics

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At least Bucks in Six is still a possibility...

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

Once again, the Milwaukee Bucks bumbled the ball away significantly tonight, as the Boston Celtics turned it over just six times to Milwaukee’s 15 as the Bucks lost 120-96 despite shooting nearly 60% from the field. Initially, Milwaukee looked like they were trying to mirror their turnover-prone first quarter from game one tonight, turning it over seven times and trailing 33-22 when the quarter ended. A quick burst to start the second dissipated quickly, but Milwaukee entered halftime down by just single digits, 60-51. Unfortunately, the depression didn’t end there, as Shane Larkin knocked down a buzzer-beater three to give Boston a 90-75 lead as the third quarter concluded. In the fourth, Boston refused to miss, partially thanks to Milwaukee’s decrepit defense, and they dominated the period to decimate Milwaukee and go up 2-0 in the series.

Three Main Observations

Deja Vu, Still Blue

Milwaukee made its way right back into the game precisely how they did in game one, using Giannis’ transition game and no Al Horford to pummel the Boston Celtics and start the second quarter on an 8-2 run. Brad Stevens gambled with Guerschon Yabusele against Giannis and paid for it, even with the Bucks inexplicably avoiding that clear mismatch for several of the first possessions of the period. Any time Giannis has a chance to attack the Celtics with Greg Monroe at center while Yabusele feebly slams his girth into him, Milwaukee needs to force feed him the rock. Even Shabazz had his spotlight moment on the run to tie it up at 35 with transition quick shots. Somehow, despite shooting 64% in the first half, they still managed to be trailing at halftime though.

Blundering Backcourt

Eric Bledsoe’s offensive ineptitude was frustrating, but the more vexing part of this series has been his defensive indifference. Terry Rozier is somehow turning him into a turnstile, despite his clear speed, strength and talent advantage over him. Bledsoe’s advantage over Rozier being Milwaukee’s clearest gap between them and Boston seems to have been mitigated completely so far. Rozier has by far outplayed Bledsoe, even with his decreased turnovers and brief spurt in the third quarter. Only 12 points won’t cut it though. Boston’s backcourt has pummeled Milwaukee’s, as Tony Snell has gone MIA in this series with Milwaukee not demonstrating any interest in finding him 3-pointers to take, nor did Snell seem too interested in rifling away tonight. When even Shane Larkin manages to score almost the same as your starting point guard, there’s clearly an issue. Tony Snell lost minutes to Sterling Brown in the fourth quarter as well.

Center Giannis Woes

Joe Prunty ran out two different center-Giannis lineups tonight, both of which seemed ill-timed and poorly constructed. One put him out there with Jabari Parker, leaving Giannis as the sole rim protection despite the fact he hasn’t been quite the defensive menace there as in year’s past due to fronting an immense offensive burden. Later, to start the fourth, Prunty chose to put him out there despite Boston running with Al Horford and Greg Monroe. That allowed Monroe to dominate Khris Middleton at the rim, who was saddled with guarding him. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad, who at least genuinely seemed interested and passionate tonight, was skulking around, mitigating what previously worked as defensive stalwart lineups. The lineup’s success seemed predicated somewhat on the fact Al Horford was the sole big man for Boston, but that was not the case tonight when Prunty sporadically popped out the fan-favorite lineup.

Bonus Bucks Bits

John Henson slapped home another high-low pass from the high post tonight in the first, this time to a cutting Giannis with a one-handed slingshot bounce pass.

Tyler Zeller got swapped in for John Henson just four minutes into the game, perhaps a concession from Prunty that Henson didn’t have enough gas as the second half waned on Sunday.

Eric Bledsoe usurped control from Giannis midway through the first quarter offensively and his missed threes and lackluster defense let Boston snag several easy buckets halfway through. On one, he tried a backside steal from Jaylen Brown as opposed to hustling back and getting in front of him. On the other, he overshot a closeout and gave Boston a good look.

Milwaukee’s weak defensive rebounding again got the better of them in the first quarter tonight. It killed them down the stretch last game, but Boston was able to snag 12 second chance points on five offensive boards in the first alone.

Jabari Parker is on the court, essentially solely for his offense. In the first quarter, he took a single shot and may as well have been Rashad Vaughn out there for how little he seemed involved in the offensive flow. He played just ten minutes and took two shots. He is a lost soul right now.

Khris Middleton and John Henson have had consistent lob chemistry all year. This particular connection was impressive mostly for Henson’s finish, considering Middleton’s been able to find him for good looks all year. Middleton baiting Boston into his dribbling game though remains a potent weapon, even if it didn’t lead to immense scoring success from jump.

Middleton finally got involved in Milwaukee’s offense late in the first half, nailing his usual diet of difficult jumpers and even slipping in a three where he deftly stepped back to fit his feet behind the 3-point line. I’d like to see him up his 3-point attempts since he is seemingly the only guy (besides Bledsoe) willing to take them.

Prunty went to a Center-Giannis lineup midway through the third as the Celtics surged. Unfortunately, he paired him with Jabari, leaving Giannis as the lone protection at the rim. Without Bledsoe, the defense didn’t have any of the lockdown possessions it flashed at the end of game one. Instead, Jaylen Brown continued to torch Milwaukee inside and out as the Celtics exploded to a 14-point lead.

Despite Joe Prunty unbelievably trying out 11 men in the first half alone, he seemed insistent on keeping Sterling Brown chained to the bench. This was despite the fact Jason Terry seemed incapable of defending any of Boston’s point guards. Thankfully, he finally managed to unleash Brown late int he second half and give him a chance to actually absorb real playoff minutes. To be fair, he also got roasted by Shane Larkin, but still, this was generally my mindset:

One of Brad Stevens primary adjustments was removing Semi Ojeleye from the Celtics entire rotation until garbage time tonight. Milwaukee couldn’t take advantage of any of his substitutes, besides Yabusele, but it seemed to pay off for Stevens club.

Malcolm Brogdon, despite contributing four of Milwaukee’s 15 turnovers, still gave this team a significant shot in the arm whenever he entered. His offensive efficiency has been vital, but he didn’t see any fourth quarter minutes tonight.

Milwaukee attempted just 17 3-pointers tonight compared to 27 for Boston. Milwaukee also shot just 41.2% (7-17) from the free throw line.