This was the first game in TD Garden, a place Milwaukee couldn’t pull a single win out of in last year’s playoffs in four attempts. Well, as it’s been proven numerous times, this isn’t the same Bucks team. Giannis and company regained home court advantage in the most competitive game of the series, winning 123-116.
No question, this was the most entertaining game of the series. This was much more like what everyone expected from these two powerhouses. Going back and forth from deep and making big defensive plays. It just so happened to work out that Milwaukee made a lot more plays.
Giannis is the king of making plays. He was a human highlight reel from start to finish in his 39 minutes. Aside from his ridiculous 32/13/8 stat line, he drew 22 free throw attempts as well as a couple steals and three blocks. The efficiency he played at allowed the rest of the Bucks to get their fair share of opportunities as well due to the constant stoppages and only have a total of thirteen shot attempts.
Adjustments have always been something that the fans of Milwaukee have had to keep an eye on. Coach Bud’s history says he isn’t great at making playoff adjustments but in this one he did nearly everything right. The Bucks’ two best players, Giannis and Khris Middleton, got a series high 39 minutes each and five more teammates had at least 27. That’s a disparity we didn’t see in games one or two but it definitely made a difference.
Now, there has been and will continue to be a lot of talk about the officiating. Yes, it slowed the game down a lot and seemed one sided. But if you think it was a totally blown game by the refs, you probably didn’t watch the plays that closely. Of course there will be misses just like any other game, but at the end of the day Boston got an average free throw shooter in Giannis to the line a ton and still only shot four less free throws than the Bucks as a team.
The real reason the Celtics couldn’t pull this one out was the lack of matching Milwaukee’s bench. Pat Connaughton and George Hill were essential pieces to the win. A combined 35 points on 14-23 shooting and 6-12 from deep isn’t something that Boston could have planned for. Nevertheless, Milwaukee has the depth to pull out wins in this fashion and they have all season. By the way, the Bucks acquired George Hill midseason simply to open up cap space for the summer. Now he’s scoring 20+ in the second round of the playoffs and looking like Uncle Drew on Kyrie.
Add all of these factors together plus a 40-point third quarter from the Bucks and it’s almost always over. The Bucks are too big, too quick, too cohesive to let things get out of hand as often as the Celtics do. Brook Lopez had the ability to lock down any Boston players and Mirotic was quick on his switches. When those two giants aren’t total liabilities against small lineups, it can be very frustrating because they can also stretch the floor on offense. The Bucks are set up unlike any other team in the league and people are starting to realize the offense based around Giannis potentially can unravel any squad.
This series is nowhere near over. In this game, Milwaukee had to battle against a bad game from Eric Bledsoe, a shortened bench with Brogdon still out and Sterling Brown playing terribly, and a loud Boston crowd. All of these things could come into play in the next matchup or worse if they are unable to keep focus. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the league so you know he’ll be ready with a new game plan to slow down Giannis. Kyrie was 8-22, that’s likely not going to happen again. All we can do at this point is trust Coach Bud to have a counter plan.
Game four will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. If everything goes as planned, it could potentially be Milwaukee’s last game in Boston this season. With a 2-1 lead, a win in game four nearly solidifies the Bucks’ trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.