The Boston Celtics were embarrassed in their first game. They made sure it didn’t happen again in the second match. Jaylen Brown set a game high by 30 points as the Celtics rebounded with a dominant 109-86 win over the net. Dollars Tuesday night until the second round of the series in one game each. Game three is on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Boston was hot from the start, beating Milwaukee 65-40 in the first half. Boston’s scoring came largely from behind the arc as the Celtics made 20 of their 43 3-point attempts to win. The Celtics’ defense made life difficult for the defending champions, who were held under 90 points.
The Bucks went to Boston on Sunday and handed the Celtics a stunning 101-89 defeat in the opening game of their series. In the process, the defending champion stole the field away from the No. 2 Eastern seed. Boston rebounded with a win over TD Garden, and did so without the services of defensive player of the year Marcus Smart, who sat with a bruised right thigh. Here are three notes from Game 2.
1. Boston Party 3
The Celtics attempted 50 three-pointers in Game 1, but that wasn’t by choice. The Milwaukee defense — already geared around protecting the paint and sacrificing three seconds — took things to another level in the opener by starting Bobby Portes alongside Giannis Antetokonmo and Brock Lopez. The idea was to put so much volume on the ground that the Celtics’ shooting team would only be fed to jump. They got caught up in it, and in the process only made 10 seconds into the entire game.
Most assumed Boston would try to find ways to take less than 3 seconds into Game 2, but they didn’t. Instead, this time the Celtics team decided to simply do all three of their indicators. The Celtics scored 65 points in the first half and started the game 11 of 17 from behind the arc. Grant Williams (6), Jaylene Brown (6) and Jason Tatum (5) have over 3 seconds longer than the Bucks as a team (3) have. Boston edged Milwaukee by 51 points from depth, but what’s more, this hot shot helped the Celtics find easier points in the first half. Milwaukee got so afraid of shooting at Boston that his defense finally started closing in on the Celtics open. Boston responded with a brilliant half-ball to create an easy look that took advantage of Milwaukee’s scattered defense.
Boston’s problem was that it didn’t sustain this high-energy offense for four quarters. The Celtics scored only 44 points in the second half because their attack was lazy. He’s frequently turned into a ball player driving in traffic, passing frantically, dying energy and taking a contested Celtic 3rd. The first half was proof that Milwaukee had an easier time defending the set-piece Celtics than moving them. If Boston can pick up what they did in the first half moving forward, they can win that series quickly. If he was playing a low-power offense he did in a second? Milwaukee can control this chain at home.
2. Williams Wall
There are not enough superlatives for Grant Williams’ defensive performance in Game Two. There are dozens of plays that deserve to be highlighted, but I want to take part in this one specifically. No setup needed, let’s just take a look:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the nearly 7-foot-tall freight train and two-time regular-season MVP winner and MVP of the Finals, ran to Williams at full speed…and collapsed. Grant Williams is the ultimate brick wall. If Giannis couldn’t exert his physical strength against the young Boston striker, no one could. The best part? He’s not even Williams the best defensively in the Celtics. Robert Williams III would have won the Defensive Player of the Year award that eventually went to Marcus Smart had he not been hurt late in the season.
Grant is 23 years old. Robert is 24 years old. They share the front court with Al Horford at the moment, but if Boston can hold both, they’ll have one of the best and most versatile defensive pairs of all in basketball. For the foreseeable future, they both bear the same last name. Robert has garnered the most praise all season for his outstanding mass, but it’s Grant’s strength that proves so pivotal in Game 2.
3. Play two different sports
In two games so far in this series, the Celtics have attempted 41 more three-pointers than the Bucks. Again, some of that is by design. Milwaukee’s defense is designed to allow 3 seconds. But her crime is designed to take them, too. Milwaukee ranked fifth in the NBA by taking 38.4 seconds per game in the regular season. Boston took 37.1 fewer per game. However, in Game 2, the Celtics took 43 3s while the Bucks only took 18.
Those 18 3 point attempts are By far the least From the age of Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee. Under his coaching, the Bucks never took less than 22 in a match before Game Two. But Boston altered their game plan defensively in a way that robbed the Milwaukee trio of attacking lives. Instead of doubling down on Antetokounmpo and letting him have double-digit passes as he did in Game 1, Boston trusted Grant Williams and Al Horford to take him one-on-one. They have been very successful. Giannis shot 11 of 27 from the field.
Without having to allocate additional resources to him, the Celtics were able to stay home at the bowlers, and with Khris Middleton out, the Bucks lacked shot creation to find their favorite looks in other ways. Now it’s up to the Bucks to figure out how they can get their shots against Boston just as Boston adapted to them in Game 2.
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