The upset-minded, 7th seeded, Milwaukee Bucks came up just short in game one against the second-seeded Boston Celtics, falling 107-113 in overtime. This was 53 minutes of intense, playoff basketball for both teams.
What went right?
One of the things that went right for the Bucks, was the play of Khris Middleton. The often scrutinized wingman was Milwaukee’s best player on the floor, no questions about it. He put up 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in 47 minutes. Khris was locked in from the opening tip and never looked back. He shot an efficient 12-20 from the floor and an even better 5-7 from downtown. He only committed 3 turnovers and was a team-best plus-11.
Middleton was a man on a mission, and in addition to his hot shooting, his facilitating was on point. He made a bevy of difficult, pinpoint passes to teammates for an easy bucket. He was making plays with the ball that Bucks fans didn’t see in the regular season. However, Middleton saved his heroics for the end of the game. He capped a wonderful 4th quarter by sinking the game-tying 34-footer with 0.5 left. Without his efforts tonight, the Bucks would have probably gotten blown out.
Another positive takeaway from this game was the performance by Malcolm Brogdon off the bench. He’s only had 3 games under his belt to get up to speed since coming back from a partially torn quad. In 32 minutes off the bench, the President put up 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 6-13 from the floor and 2-6 from deep. He showed some rust in the early going, but it wore off down the stretch,
Brogdon played a huge role down the stretch, nailing a game-tying three-pointer in the fourth. Before going down on February 1st, Malcolm Brogdon was arguably the Bucks’ most consistent player not named Giannis Antetokounmpo. His play off the bench will determine whether the Bucks advance to the next round or not, so we should fully expect to see minutes in the high-30s for Malcolm. It was definitely an encouraging sign to see Brogdon moving well out there on both sides of the ball. As he gets healthier, he will continue to get better.
What went wrong?
Unfortunately for the Bucks, a few things didn’t go their way which resulted in a stinging loss in OT. One of the ugliest parts of game one for the Bucks was the performance by impending restricted free-agent, Jabari Parker. In 15 minutes, he made absolutely no impact, in fact, he was a big negative. Jabari scored only 2 points on 1-5 shooting and his body language indicates someone who knows he’s not long for the road. His defensive woes continued today, and Brad Stevens did a great job of exposing Parker on defense.
When Jabari is bringing nothing to the table offensively, and defensively like today, he is unplayable. He was a minus-14.
The Bucks turned the ball over 20 times, which needless to say, isn’t a recipe for success. Milwaukee wasted numerous possessions with silly turnovers and bad passes. The Bucks get very discombobulated at times out there, and that really showed today. You can’t turn the ball over 20 times in a playoff game and expect to win.
MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo looked lost at times in game one, but he still managed to put up 35 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in 45 minutes. He had a solid 16 points at halftime, but he faded on both sides of the ball after halftime. The Celtics did a great job of packing the paint, forcing Giannis into difficult shots from inside and outside. The Greek Freak still shot 11-21 from the floor and 13-16 from the line. There were numerous times where he lost Celtics forward Marcus Morris on defense which resulted in open threes. I’m just nitpicking at this point.
Did Eric Bledsoe ever get off the bus for game one? He was nearly invisible in 33 minutes, scoring 9 points, and committing 5 turnovers and only dishing out 4 assists. He did do some good things, but you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Bledsoe. He also got cooked by Terry Rozier on the second-to-last possession of the 4th quarter. Yikes. This was arguably his worst performance in a Bucks uniform, expect a big bounce-back in game two.
What should change?
I thought Joe Prunty did an excellent job dialing down Milwaukee’s defense, which forced Boston into more turnovers. However, they would benefit from playing Brogdon and Sterling Brown more. The Bucks would be wise to dial it down with Jabari Parker, as Brad Stevens is too good of a coach to not exploit Jabari Parker on defense.