Celtics, Blazers aim to protect home court after road wins
Boston, the East’s fourth seed, came out strong and took Game 1 against top-seeded Milwaukee before getting blown out in Game 2. The series resumes at TD Garden on Friday night, and the Celtics like their chances on a court where they’ve won 12 of their last 13 playoff games.
For that trend to continue, Boston must get a better performance from Jayson Tatum. The second-year forward averaged 19.2 points per game during the Celtics’ first-round sweep of the Pacers, shooting 50 percent from the floor. In two games against Milwaukee, he has nine total points while connecting on 24% of his field-goal attempts.
“I watched film. I acknowledge that I gotta be better overall,” Tatum said. “And I will be better. It’s a bad game. It happens. I don’t think too much of it. Just ready for Game 3.”
The Celtics will also be thinking about team President Danny Ainge, who suffered a mild heart attack in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Celtics said the 60-year-old Ainge, who also had a mild heart attack in 2009, is expected to make a full recovery.
Milwaukee will be hoping to replicate its Game 2 performance in which it outscored Boston 39-18 in the third quarter of a 123-102 victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton carried the load, with help from Eric Bledsoe. He scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting after contributing six points on 1-of-5 shooting in Game 1.
“We’re really dangerous, especially if Bledsoe is going downhill and is in attack mode. We’re a totally different team,” Antetokounmpo said.
Out West, the third-seeded Blazers return home for Game 3 against the second-seeded Nuggets eager to play with the same sense of urgency they displayed in their 97-90 Game 2 win.
Portland was also helped by a historically bad second-quarter effort by Denver. The Nuggets trailed 50-35 at halftime after the franchise’s worst quarter ever at home in the playoffs (12 points). They made just 5 of 23 shots and missed all 10 of their 3-pointers in the quarter.
“They say the series starts when someone wins a game on the road and we were able to do that,” said Damian Lillard, who had a poor night shooting in Game 2. “So our goal is to just take it one game at a time and protect our home floor. … We have to be just as sharp, if not better because you know they are going to come back better.”
A look at Thursday’s games:
BUCKS AT CELTICS
Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: The Bucks bounced back after losing Game 1 to even the series. Games 3 and 4 are in Boston, where the Celtics are 12-1 over the past two postseasons.
INJURY WATCH: Milwaukee could get a boost in Game 3 with Malcolm Brogdon possibly available for the first time since mid-March, when he suffered a plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Celtics guard Marcus Smart continued to do some shooting and mobility drills in practice Thursday as he recovers from a partial tear to his left oblique.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Milwaukee got huge nights in Game 3 from Antetokounmpo and Middleton, who made seven of the Bucks’ franchise playoff-high 20 3-pointers. Boston is allowing an average of just 82.5 points per game this postseason at home.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Bucks’ supporting cast. Antetokounmpo had help in Game 2 and it allowed him to play freer on offense, without expending a great deal of energy. That must continue over the next two games for Milwaukee to be able to take back home court.
NUGGETS AT TRAIL BLAZERS
Portland leads, 2-1. Game 4, 10:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: The Blazers have won 11 straight at home dating to the regular season. Their last home loss was March 7 in overtime to Oklahoma City. … Portland was 32-9 at home in the regular season. … The Blazers are a four-point favorite.
INJURY WATCH: Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray was hobbled by a right leg injury. He was seen riding an exercise bike in the fourth quarter of Game 2. … Blazers forward Maurice Harkless rolled his right ankle in the second quarter and didn’t return.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Nuggets forward Torrey Craig. He wore a clear mask after bloodying his nose in the second quarter.
PRESSURE IS ON: Lillard, who was 5 of 17 from the field for 14 points in Game 2. His supporting cast picked up the slack with five other players scoring in double figures.