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Milwaukee vs. Boston: Bucks Steamroll Celtics, 123-102

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Milwaukee returns the favor and evens up the series

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Phew. These are the Milwaukee Bucks were used to. Facing the most adversity they’ve seen this season, the Bucks would clobber the Celtics to even up the series, 123-102.

Game 2 would be a very similar start to Game 1 with the Bucks not being able to connect on much from the floor. Nikola Mirotic, who replaced Sterling Brown in the starting lineup, would quickly inherit foul trouble and be forced to exit — and that wasn’t good news. Milwaukee remained frigid on shot attempts, as nothing seemed to fall. Good looks failed to be generated on a consistent basis as well, and many shots seemed to be forced. An 8-2 run by the Celtics to close out the quarter would grant them a 30-25 lead moving to the second period of play.

The second quarter would provide a little more cohesion for the Bucks. Eric Bledsoe would start to get more involved, and Giannis’ first dunk of the series would spark the Fiserv Forum crowd. Oh, and that Khris Middleton fella? He was still red hot. A flurry of shots from him would give Milwaukee a six-point lead, their largest lead of the series to that point. Unfortunately, it’d be met by a ridiculous sequence from Kyrie Irving that included a nasty baseline fade, a deep three, then a fancy dish that resulted in a Marcus Morris three. However, the Bucks would finish strong on a pair of threes from Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, granting them a 59-55 lead heading into the half.

The Bucks would get a strong edge out of the gates to begin the third. Immediately, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton would pad the Bucks’ lead to as big as 10 points. And then, it came. The moment we’ve been waiting for — a Bucks slaughter, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. His 15 points would be the leading force in a 24-4 landslide of a run that turned on the nitro for Milwaukee. Going into the final quarter of action, the Bucks would happily hold some much needed breathing room with a 25-point advantage at 98-73. From that point on, everything else was icing on the cake. The Bucks would flip on cruise control and embark upon a cathartic redemption, toying with Boston throughout the fourth and finish with a 123-102 victory.

The MVP would tally one of those well-rounded games we’re accustomed with, posting a 29 point, 10 rebound, and four assist performance. He’d also go a hefty 13-of-18 from the charity stripe. Khris Middleton would continue his mission against the Celtics, pouring on 28 points on 10-of-18 from the floor (including a blazing 7-of-10 from deep).

Marcus Morris would highlight the scoring column for Boston, concluding his night with 17 points. Jaylen Brown mixed in 16 points and Al Horford put up 15 of his own.

Three Observations

KHRIS MIDDLETON. That man is on a MISSION vs. the Celtics.

The rampage continues for K-Midd. He continues to frustrate Boston and their fans at a remarkable rate, posting yet another incredible stat line — something that has become a common trend in the postseason. All in all, it’d rise to 28 points on an unconscious 10-of-18 shooting performance — which included 7-of-10 on threes. Early on when Milwaukee was struggling, it was Middleton who helped the Bucks stay the course. His shooting kept them in the game and prevented Boston from climbing into the double-digit point range. A few of his threes saw him stop on a dime in transition and get nothing but net, something Brad Stevens noted as one of the most difficult things to prevent during his postgame presser. It really is a special talent that separates Middleton from the rest, and my goodness, did it help the Bucks last night.

Giannis saw your (not you, the Brew Hoop reader, but the national media) tweets and decided to do something about it.

I mean, you can’t keep him down for more than one game. The Celtics did a magnificent job containing him in Game 1, but the Greek Freak cannot be contained for a period longer than 48 minutes. This is the MVP you’re talking about. Bouncing back from his lackluster 22 point performance in Game 1, Antetokounmpo roared back with 29 points, 10 boards, and four assists. Right out of the gates, you could sense a higher level of aggressiveness from him — and that was the theme of the night for not just Giannis, but the Bucks — aggressiveness. Antetokounmpo would get to the free throw line 18 times, and boy...would that be a huge factor. Not just would he etch 18 attempts, he’d convert on 13 of them. Oh, and that 3-point shot? It’s looking quite nice. After knocking down several of them in Game 1, he’d connect on a two more last night (I can hear Reggie Miller saying “Boy, if he starts hitting that...” from here). All jokes aside, a Giannis that’s comfortable from firing from deep is magnificent to watch and helps this team tremendously.

It was very exciting to have Eric Bledsoe back.

That same aggressiveness that complemented Middleton and Antetokounmpo’s performances shined brightly for Eric Bledsoe. It was only a matter of time before it showed up, as we’re all well aware of his struggles against the Celtics in the postseason. How does 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 from deep), five assists, and a +23 sound for a bounceback game? Pretty awesome, if you ask me. Having an Eric Bledsoe that can bring it like this provides a world of difference, and it’s no hard task to see that when you look at the score of the game. That level of aggressiveness translates into not just more points from Bled, but more points from others. It serves as a domino effect as it forces the defense to respect him in a closer manner, thus opening the offense for further opportunities. It was just so great to see him doing his 3-point celebration against the Celtics. Pump that in my veins and let’s knock on wood that we see that in Game 3 on Friday.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • At the beginning of the game, it appeared that we were reading off the same recipe from Game 1 — lots of missed shots. Thankfully, that cold shooting would heat up into some warmer temperatures in the second quarter...and it wouldn’t be long until it got red hot. The Bucks would end up draining 20 threes on the night, which registered as a team playoff high. Not bad considering their statistics from Game 1. They say shooting is contagious, and that definitely was the case last night.
  • Budenholzer has been known to not make many adjustments throughout his coaching career, and he didn’t emphasize anything leading up to Game 2. However, the defense performed much better and the majority of that can be attributed to the switching Milwaukee did. It definitely set a hostile demeanor on the defensive end that the team lacked in Game 1 and they were able to build momentum off of it. Check out the mind of Mike Prada for some more in-depth look into this:
  • Once again, Pat Connaughton tacked up a high number of minutes — 30 of them, to be exact. Let’s just say that this decision can be deemed as...questionable. He’d notch five points and connect on a three, but the main struggle is on defense. At times, he looks more clueless than a blank stare from Bran Stark. Will Budenholzer resort to DJ Wilson off the bench instead for Game 3? Surely, he’d be able to wring out a stronger defensive effort...let’s just say I (and I’m sure many of you) wouldn’t object.
  • This was Kyrie Irving’s worst playoff game of his career. His total stat line: 9 points (4-of-18 shooting, 1-of-5 from deep), four assists, and a -19 RPM. It’s his second lowest point total in his total slate of postseason games, and the only time he scored fewer was when he played just 12 minutes. Obviously, don’t expect another dud from him in Game 3 — no way that happens. But hey, we’ll take it.
  • The implementation of Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup was magnificent. Not just did it add another spark to the lineup from deep, but his impact was felt on the defensive end. I’d anticipate on him starting again in Game 3.
  • Somehow, I came into tonight somewhat excited for Biz Markie’s halftime performance. After he sang the main verse of Just a Friend, I already had enough. If you think it sounds bad in the studio version, it’s 100x worse in-person. I think my ears are still bleeding.
  • Last, I asked Giannis the question we’ve all been wondering. Has he started Game of Thrones? The answer is yes! He’s all caught up!

I’m always down for some GoT conversation, so feel free to drop who you think will take the throne in the comments below. Just make sure to be a bro and put “SPOILERS” or something so you don’t accidentally ruin anything for somebody who isn’t caught up. But man, what a commitment from Giannis. Seriously, that’s impressive.