On what would turn out to be a perfect day for playoff basketball in Milwaukee, the result would not be what Bucks fans were hoping for, as the Boston Celtics came into Fiserv Forum and stole Game 1, 112-90.
This one would start out exactly as you’d think. An overflowing source of energy, not an empty seat in the house, and a Khris Middleton 3-pointer to start the scoring. However, things would soon go ice cold for Milwaukee. Boston would inflict lockdown defense, making it extremely difficult for the Bucks to get anything effective going on offense. In the first quarter, the Bucks would shoot a putrid 5-of-19 from the floor, resulting in a 26-17 Celtics advantage. Giannis would fail to convert a basket, tallying just a single point from the free throw line.
Boston would continue their run, going up by as many as 15 points. However, an 15-0 run by the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench would place the Bucks right back in the mix of things. This is where we’d first discover Fiserv Forum’s playoff potential. It was ROCKING. At halftime, the Bucks would take what was a double-digit deficit and slice it two just a two-point Boston advantage, 52-50.
All of the momentum that Milwaukee had worked so hard to conjure up would unfortunately vanish right from the beginning of the third. Boston would slice and dice Milwaukee’s defense and got any midrange shot they’d like, causing major frustrations for the Bucks. Antetokounmpo would continue to get sealed off at the rim on nearly every attempt, limiting Milwaukee’s offensive opportunities even more.
Despite hope swirling around Fiserv Forum for one final Bucks push, nothing would propagate, and the Bucks would soon be waving the white flag in this one. Boston did a terrific job of stomping out any chances of a Milwaukee comeback, and eventually waltzed out with a 112-90 win.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would lead the scoring for Milwaukee, finishing his afternoon up with 22 points. Khris Middleton etched up 16 points and Nikola Mirotic contributed 13 of his own.
For the Celtics, Kyrie Irving led the way, totaling 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting. Al Horford made a strong impact with his double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Wow. The Celtics shut down Giannis.
All the talk leading up into this series was how Boston would match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Many people thought they’d have no shot of doing so, given his utter domination of teams and track record against them. Well, yesterday, Al Horford decided to step up and did so in a major way. Antetokounmpo would go just 7-of-21 from the floor, with three of those field goals being 3-pointers. Any time he’d march down to the paint, he’d be greeted by a wall of Celtics. It was clearly Giannis’ worst performance of the year and it’ll be interesting to see how he and the rest of the Bucks bounce back in Game 2. Whatever it is, they’ll have to get creative in finding ways of opening things up — nearly every time Antetokounmpo would drive at the hoop in a one-on-one vs. Horford. If an answer can’t be found, the Bucks will be in major trouble.
Milwaukee needs a more aggressive Eric Bledsoe.
Coach Bud has preached this endlessly throughout the season — when Bled is on, the Bucks are on. Unfortunately, Bled was not on yesterday. In 25 minutes of action, he’d register just six points on an ugly 1-of-5 shooting line. We all know how menacing of a force he can be on the offensive end, as we’ve seen it countless times this season. He’s prided himself on having a bulldog mentality numerous times in the past, but unfortunately, Boston did a solid job of neutralizing that threat yesterday. Early on, he’d connect on a three. Outside of that, it wasn’t what you’d hope to see. I really hope he still doesn’t have second thoughts about last year’s series vs. Boston, and I do think he’ll bounce back. The Bucks definitely will benefit if he does.
What happens if Sterling Brown is out for Game 2?
This will definitely be something to watch. Sterling Brown would end up leaving yesterday’s game due to back spasms, and if he’s out for Game 2, it’ll be intriguing to see how Budenholzer elects to move forward. There’s a strong possibility it’d result in Nikola Mirotic being inserted into the starting lineup, giving the Bucks some more length and even more perimeter shooting options. Mirotic had himself a solid Game 1, so there’s definitely merit to that proposal. The Bucks have gotten here by letting it fly, so this could force Boston into an awkward position on the defensive end if they’re forced to cover yet another shooter. Also, by spacing the floor, it could provide enough room for Giannis to open his game up and squirm out of those ugly one-on-one against Horford. We’ll know more about this once we get an update on Sterling Brown.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- You have to appreciate good basketball, and that’s just what Al Horford did yesterday. The man doesn’t disappoint and, unfortunately, always seems to have the Bucks’ number. Looks can be deceiving and I don’t know if there’s any other player that fills that mantra more than Horford. He looks clumsy, he looks old, and he looks like he always second-guesses his shot. Well, all of those are just optical illusions, as he held his own and more against Giannis. This will absolutely be the matchup to watch in Game 2.
- In addition to his struggles from the floor, Antetokounmpo would also struggle from the free throw line, as he’d go just 5-of-10. It’s so frustrating to see a player of his talents split a pair, and, at one point, miss both attempts off the front rim in a very ugly manner. There’s definitely opportunity for him to get calls considering how Boston dealt with him down low, but it won’t mean much if he can’t convert from the line (or if the refs don’t start calling some stuff).
- Boy, Pat Connaughton sure didn’t have it. In his 24 minutes, he’d go just 2-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-7 from three, and not much more. His performance would end up resulting in a putrid -21 RPM — the second worst on the team behind Antetokounmpo. It’ll be a point to watch in whether or not Budenholzer pushes him out of the rotation in Game 2. Let’s just say I won’t have any objections if he does so.
- On a plus side, Nikola Mirotic and Khris Middleton both had nice performances. Mirotic would end up with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point land. Middleton would go 5-of-12 from the floor but also connect on 3-of-4 from deep, as well as ten rebounds and six assists — a very respectable performance. If Mirotic does end up being inserted into the starting lineup and these two stay hot, things could start off in a very different manner Tuesday night.
- I saw a few tweets circulating on Twitter dot com that were trashing the Fiserv Forum crowd. In my opinion, I thought it was fine. When there was reason to cheer, they did so — loudly. After the Bucks stormed all the way back, it was nearly deafening. I’m sure they’ll bring their A game on Tuesday evening for Game 2.