In Game 1, Giannis Antetokounmpo took 21 shots and made only seven. In Game 2, he took just 16 shots, also making seven. While better, still that’s only a 43.8% field-goal percentage. However, Giannis was more aggressive in taking the ball to the hoop -- and quicker, not allowing Boston’s defense to collapse. As a result, he got fouled a lot -- he had 18 free-throw attempts compared to just 10 in Game 1 (he also hit 72.2% compared to making only half in Milwaukee’s loss). Antetokounmpo getting into the paint also helped spread the floor and get the Bucks some good looks from 3, instead of forced or contested deep shots like in Game 1. And it paid off, as the Bucks made 20 3-pointers, a franchise record in the playoffs.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
We were reminded that Khris Middleton torches the Celtics
Lost in the Bucks’ big defeat in Game 1 was that Middleton hit three of his four 3-point attempts. In Game 2, he was (use the NBA Jam voice here) on fire, hitting 7-for-10 from downtown en route to a 28-point night. In last year’s playoff seven-game first-round series loss to the Celtics, Middleton shot 25 of 41 on 3-point attempts. Add in the two games thus far, plus the past two playoff series against Boston and Middleton is shooting 63.6% (35 of 55) from 3.
Yes, Milwaukee did make adjustments
After saying before the game that Nikola Mirotic would be in his usual role, head coach Mike Budenholzer put Mirotic in the starting lineup – giving the Bucks a big frontcourt of three near 7-footers in Antetokoumpo, Mirotic and Brook Lopez, while moving the 6-foot-8 Middleton to shooting guard. Mirotic picking up two quick fouls didn’t help the plan, but he did end up playing 24 minutes, his most in a playoff game this year thus far, recording nine points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block with a box score +/- of plus-22. With Malcolm Brodgon perhaps returning in Game 3, it will be interesting to see how Budenholzer starts the guard right away or eases him in, likely taking away minutes from Sterling Brown, who started Game 1.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNBAE/Getty Images
The third quarter, again
Perhaps Game 1 was just an anomaly. We might know for sure by looking at how the third quarter plays out in future contests. In their first-round series against Detroit, the Bucks owned the 12 minutes after halftime. Milwaukee outscored the Pistons in the third quarter in every game and finished with a +52 margin. In the Game 1 loss, when so much didn’t go right, the Bucks were outscored 36-21 in the third. In Game 2, Milwaukee took over the game in that quarter, outscoring Boston 39-18. The Bucks finished the quarter on a 24-2 run which saw Antetokounmpo score 13 points and Eric Bledsoe (yes, Boston knows his first name now) seven.
The Bucks played much better defense
After holding Detroit to under 40% shooting in their opening-series win, the Bucks allowed Boston to connect on 54.0% of its field-goal attempts, and 41.9% from 3, in Game 1. Milwaukee turned up the defensive intensity. The Celtics shot just 39.5% from the field in Game 2, but were at around 38% before the fourth quarter, which was mainly garbage time. Mirotic did more switching defense, which perhaps helped, but it was Boston’s guards and small forwards who really struggled – starters Kyrie Irving was 4 of 18 and Jayson Tatum 2 of 10. Coming off the bench, Gordon Hayward took only five shots (making one) while Terry Rozier was 2 of 10. Play defense like that, and the Bucks give themselves a chance to win every game.