The Bucks were a little slow out of the gate Tuesday night against the Celtics, but an incredible effort from human flamethrower Khris Middleton gave the Bucks a four point lead headed into halftime. The Bucks won the 3rd quarter 39-18 and did not look back from there as they forced the game into garbage time earlier than anyone expected. Giannis bounced back from a meh Game 1 to normal superhuman Giannis night, as the Celtics struggled to contain him. The series is now tied one a piece, as we head to Boston for a pivotal game 3, so what should Bucks fans take away from Game 2 that we might see again Friday night?
- Kyrie Irving was abysmal in Game 2, taking 18 shots to score a mere 9 points. He struggled to get any rhythm going as the Bucks were smothering him at every moment. Part of the Bucks defense on him involves coaxing him into taking long twos, when those are not falling Kyrie’s game can get ugly quick.
- Al Horford did not catch fire, but he had another good game. Horford is the key for them this series, especially with his defense on Giannis. Coach Budenholzer was able to scheme for the Bucks to get Giannis matched up with anyone but Horford with fairly good efficiency last night. I’ll be curious how Brad Stevens adjusts this going forward, as other Celtics have been pretty universally abysmal at containing Giannis.
- With the way the Celtics approach guarding the Bucks, they are preventing easy buckets in the paint in an effort to make someone other than Giannis beat them. In Game 2 that resulted in the Bucks attempting 47 threes and making 20 of them. A fairly great percentage at 42.5%, but considering shot quality it is not necessarily surprising. Even regressing it to 16/47 the Bucks still would have won handily. The bottom line for Boston should be, we need to run them off the three point line, if the Bucks are attempting 47 mainly open threes the results will favor Milwaukee more often than not.
- Eric Bledsoe had a good game against the Boston Celtics! (I could honestly end the point here, but let’s continue.) Bledsoe went 3 for 5 from three and was 4/7 inside the arc giving him an extremely efficient night. After struggling with turnovers early he reigned it in and settled down. Bledsoe hounded Kyrie Irving all night and was a major contributor to his inefficiency. He ended the night with no steals, but had two blocks and was a contributing factor for a lot of the Celtics 13 turnovers. If the Bucks are winning the point guard matchup the Celtics stand little chance of winning this series. I don’t expect Kyrie to be held to single digits, but if he is working hard for his points and giving them back on defense, Bledsoe will look like a bargain on his contract.
- Middleton caught fire as he went 7/10 from downtown in Game 2, I don’t anticipate that he will make 7 threes every game going forward, but the Celtics have to respect him as a shooter. He was the definition of microwave last night, as he was pulling up on everyone and draining threes. Khris will be important going forward, but it is more likely we will see the 3-5 made threes a game Khris than the human flamethrower.
- Connaughton has played a lot of minutes this series, 6th man type minutes. This is an area of concern for me going forward as Pat tends to struggle on both ends due to an inaccurate jumper and defensive limitations. It was fine in Game 2, but Game 1 was a nightmare for Pat. In Game 2, he played more minutes than everyone not named Giannis or Khris, this seems like a recipe for disaster, but this game turned into a blowout very early in the second half. Lets see what minutes distribution looks like in a close game.
- The three headed big man tandem of Lopez, Mirotic, and Ilyasova seems to be Bud’s preferred rotation at the C, Backup Giannis spots (even some big ball lineups). These guys each have values to their games, but I’ll be curious who plays the best for the rest of this series. As guarding Al Horford can be a tough ask for any of them, and aside from a small Niko outburst in Game 1 they’ve been relatively quiet on offense.
- Giannis will always be the engine that drives the bus and the Bucks will win or lose this series and even a potential Eastern Conference Finals series on his greatness. Giannis had 29 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in Game 2, but that didn’t really feel like peak Giannis. I wonder if we end up seeing peak Giannis this series, the 40 point 15 rebound 7 assist DPOY type Giannis we only bring out for special occasions. If we do the Celtics stand little to no chance.
So that is what I anticipate being a big deal in Game 3 and the rest of the series going forward. What do y’all think?