In the first round of the NBA playoffs, the seventh seed Bucks were matched up with the second seed Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics had the superior record in the regular season, some people believed that the Bucks could potentially win this series due to Boston’s injury woes. However, so far this series, the Bucks have looked overmatched and find themselves down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Although the Bucks are down in the series, it is not an insurmountable deficit. Here are three keys to victory for the Bucks to turn things around and win this series:
1) Antetokounmpo Needs To Take More Shots
Although Milwaukee has not looked like a playoff team thus far, Giannis Antetokounmpo has clearly been the best player on the court this series. Giannis has been able to score at will as no Celtics can keep up with his combination of athleticism, size and length. The Celtics are simply not strong or tall enough to guard him for a full 48 minute game. Although Giannis was pretty aggressive on offense in the first two games of the series, he will need to be even more aggressive moving forward to continue exploiting his matchups.
So far this series, Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.5 points per game along with 11.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists. However, the most impressive statistic is his field goal percentage. In two games, Antetokounmpo is shooting an absurd 63.2% percent from the floor. Although it is critical for a superstar to get his teammates involved, Antetokounmpo needs to focus on taking more shots while still hitting the open man when possible. He is the most efficient player on the Bucks and the Celtics clearly cannot guard him over long periods. Antetokounmpo will need to stay out of foul trouble, stay on the court, and take around 25 shots per game moving forward if the Bucks plan on coming back and potentially winning this series.
2) Limit Turnovers
Despite being down 2-0 in the series, the Bucks have shot extremely well from the floor in both games. However, a large reason why the Bucks have lost both games is due to their inability to stop turning the ball over. So far, the Bucks are averaging 17.5 turnovers per game which is unacceptable moving forward.
The Bucks lost Game 1 in overtime after a thrilling buzzer beater by Khris Middleton at the end of regulation tied the game. To Bucks fans’ dismay, Milwaukee could have won this game in regulation had they not lost the turnover battle 20 to 15. While this might not seem like a huge gap, any of those turnovers in regulation could have resulted in Khris Middleton’s shot being a game winner.
In Game 2, the Bucks lost the turnover battle by ten, playing a huge factor in the Celtics’ double digit victory. Although the Bucks did reduce their Game 1 turnover total, they only forced five turnovers on defense. For Milwaukee to win four of the next five games, they will have to limit their turnovers and make every possession count.
3) Stopping Terry Rozier
Prior to the start of the NBA playoffs, it was announced that Kyrie Irving would miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury. The news of course led people to assume that the Celtics would struggle offensively in his absence. Replacing him was Terry Rozier who has been a bench player for the majority of his young career. After a hot end to the season without Kyrie, Rozier has been phenomenal early in this series and seems likely to continue his excellent play until Bledsoe steps up.
In the first two games of the series, Rozier averaged 23.0 points per game along with 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Rozier was also extremely efficient and shot 46.9% from the floor and 50% from the three point line. So far, Rozier has completely outplayed Bucks starting point guard Eric Bledsoe.
If Bledsoe is able to lock in better on Rozier for the rest of the series, Boston’s offense might not have enough firepower to win without Irving. That being said, Rozier has looked like a superstar so far and has able made several clutch shots down the stretch. Perhaps the Bucks coach Joe Prunty should consider switching the defensive matchups with Rozier moving forward. Either way, the Louisville product will need to be stopped for the Bucks to redeem themselves from last year and escape the first round of the playoffs.