It was a rough night for Celtics fans still riding high off of Game 1.
After basically punching the lights out of the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, they took their own beating in Game 2.
By the end of the first quarter, I was actually really excited to write this article. I had a whole section planned to how Horford was playing unreal on both ends of the ball, how Boston’s defense was good enough to stop Genghis Khan, and how Jaylen Brown was giving some fantastic minutes.
And then the Bucks played like the best regular season team in the NBA (which they were). The Celtics couldn’t get the series up to 2-0 on the road, instead losing 123-102 and coming up short compared to Milwaukee’s steaming hot offense.
Giannis scored 29- even though 13 came from the free-throw line, but the real issue was his supporting cast. Khris Middleton, who has played out of his league against Boston this season, had 28 on seven threes, and Eric/Drew Bledsoe put up 21.
The Celtics can’t lose another game like this in this series. With two games coming up at home, they have the position to set the tone of the series and put the Bucks against the wall. After watching the first two games of the series, there are a few key things Boston needs to do to advance.
Horford has given great minutes this series. Against Giannis in Game 1, he forced him to 3-11 shooting, all three from deep, and 0-6 from inside. Offensively, he had 20 points on 50.0 percent shooting and capped off a double-double with 11 boards. Tuesday? Horford had 15 points and 8 boards, and still contained Giannis, at least in the first half. The Greek Freak started the game with his first seven points coming from the charity stripe instead of the field.
Horford has been one of, if not the most consistent player for Boston in the postseason this year. He is the veteran on the team, the grandpappy if you will. He sure looks like it. ‘Above Average Al’ needs to step up night in and night out, set the defensive tone, make the shots he should make, and be the vocal leader on the team. If the Celtics win the series, Horford will be the MVP.
What’s good, Kyrie?
Kyrie was “in his bag” Sunday. Kyrie was way out of his bag on Tuesday. Simple: Kyrie needs to be Kyrie if Boston wants to win. He can’t shoot 4-of-18 with nine points. Irving is the superstar on this team, and no one has won a recent championship without a superstar.
Kyrie is a better player than Eric Bledsoe, or anyone in the Bucks’ backcourt. When he takes over games, the Celtics are nearly impossible to beat. When he can’t figure out how to play with the rest of his team, the Celtics struggle to beat anyone. As important as Horford is, if Kyrie plays like he did in Game 2, Boston is out.
Get it to the Greek
Giannis Antetokounmpo is really good at basketball. That isn’t a hot take. However, besides him, the Celtics have a much better team than the Bucks. Tuesday, Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast of Bledsoe and Middleton combined for 49 points.
Boston can let Giannis score 50 if he wants to. In Game 1, Middleton and Bledsoe combined for 22 points. That’s exactly where Boston wants to be. As much as Giannis is a focus, keeping the other guys out of it is a priority. If you have to actively guard all five players on the court as if they can score 20, then Giannis doesn’t get the attention he needs, and three players will combine for 78 points. You’d lose by 21.
Jayson Tatum has nine overall points this series. That isn’t okay. Like, at all. Tatum is supposed to be the next best thing. Remember his dunk over LeBron last year? The answer is yes. It’s all Tatum stans talk about.
Look, Tatum is a great player. He just isn’t playing like one. He’s 4-of-17 all series, and hasn’t been impactful at all. Last postseason, Tatum was Boston’s go-to-scorer. He doesn’t have to be the second coming of Kobe Bryant for Boston to win, he just needs to be effective.
I’d look for Boston to set a few off-ball screens to free him up from Middleton, and once he sees the ball go through the hoop, he should gain some confidence back.
The Celtics are in a GREAT position compared to what people predicted from the series. They stole a game in Milwaukee, one of their best scorers has played awful, and they haven’t even touched their home court. If Boston can compete at home, they have a great chance of sending Giannis and the bucks packing.
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