After a series-opening overtime thriller that resulted in a loss on Sunday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks were confident that they could turn the series around. However, they sputtered in the opening quarter of Game 2, eventually taking a nine-point deficit into halftime.
Things only went south from there. The Boston Celtics ran away with the lead, at one point extending it to 18 over the lowly Bucks. Jaylen Brown torched Milwaukee, tying Giannis’ scoring tally with a game high 30 points, many of them coming on uncontested layups. Terry Rozier continued his path of destruction, pouring in another 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks’ primary defensive assignment on Rozier, had this to say about him after the game:
If Bledsoe truly forgot the name of the guy who’s been dusting him all series, that doesn’t reflect well on him. It’s more likely it had something to do with Rozier having referred to him as “Drew Bledsoe” after Game 1.
Bledsoe has been holding the Bucks back through the first two games with his poor shot selection and inability to even slow down Rozier on the perimeter. Bledsoe is expected to be the first line of defense against guard penetration, so when he allows Rozier to skate by him without much resistence, naturally the rest of the Bucks’ defense breaks down. This has happened all series, and it was a huge part of why they allowed a depleted Celtics team to score 120 on Tuesday night.
You could chalk it up to lack of mental experience, as Bledsoe had never started a playoff game before this series. Another player possibly suffering from the same downfall is Jabari Parker, who has also had a rocky start to the playoffs. Having been injured in the last two seasons the Bucks made the playoffs, Parker is experiencing postseason action for the first time in his career.
Parker, who rode the bench for the entirety of his regular season tenure, was relegated to an even smaller role in the first two games. In 25 total minutes this series, he has made just 1 shot out of 7 attempts. His defense, or lack thereof, was even more concerning. Watch him get completely out-hustled by Al Horford (a center) after this turnover in Game 2:
Parker voiced his concerns lack of playing time when he talked to media at practice yesterday. He seems to feel that he was never given a fair chance to make an impact, but there is very little margin for error in the playoffs. Rotations tend to favor the starters, and bench players like Parker have to be ready the moment they step on the floor. Head coach Joe Prunty clearly didn’t like what he saw in the first two games, resulting in just 10 minutes for Parker in Game 2.
Parker hasn’t done anything to convince Prunty that he’s worthy of even one minute in the playoffs, but this series could have broader implications for the future. With his abysmal play on both ends of the floor, Parker might be cornering himself into an unfavorable position when the Bucks evaluate his future with the team.
For now, Prunty will have to figure out what to do with Parker to give him the best chance to win the series. The Celtics almost exclusively attacked Parker while he was on the floor, exploiting his defensive vulnerability.
In Game 2, Prunty used 13 of his available players, even Shabazz Muhammad, who was surprisingly effective with 11 points. At times, it looked like Prunty was throwing stuff at a wall to see what would stick. None of the lineups were meshing though, and the Bucks were blown out despite shooting 59.7% overall.
Sometimes, you have to go with what works. The Bucks’ starters have done exceptionally well against the Celtics’ starters. According to Dean Maniatt of BrewHoop.com, the starters sported a net rating of +27.0 in the 10 minutes they played in Game 2.
The starting lineup of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Bledsoe, Henson, and Snell has performed well, despite Bledsoe’s self-destructive attitude and the disappointing losses. Snell can be a huge asset for the Bucks as well, but they need to give him good looks. He has played 55 minutes and only taken 7 shots this series. Last year against Toronto, Snell shot over 50% on threes and was a major spark for the Bucks, especially in Game 3 where he hit five threes en route to a blowout victory.
For success in Game 3, Prunty simply needs to trust his starters and let them decide the outcome of the game. Data isn’t foolproof, but right now it suggests that if you put winning players on the floor and let the Greek Freak work his magic, you’re going to like the result.