Game 2 of the first round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics tips off tonight at the TD Garden, two days after a wild game 1 was played out at the same venue.
When Terry Rozier crossed Eric Bledsoe out of his shoes before draining a clutch three with 0.5 seconds left in regulation, the raucous Boston crowd were ready to start the celebrations early. They quickly took their seats once more however, as a Khris Middleton prayer somehow hit nothing but net, and the game headed to an extra period.
The Celtics went on to outscore the Bucks 14-8 in overtime, to clinch a 113-107 game 1 victory. Rozier did the damage in the extra period, scoring 8, to give him 11 of his 23 total points in the last 5:01 of game time.
Turnovers and foul trouble will be a focus for the Bucks, as they committed 20 turnovers, while both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe fouled out of the game. In the following days two minute report, the NBA announced that both of Antetokounmpo’s final two fouls were incorrect calls. One coming late in regulation, one in overtime. When Joe Prunty was asked if he’d seen the report at shoot around this morning, he wasn’t willing to get too caught up in the report.
“I’m aware of it [the two minute report], but at the end of the day, we’re down 0-1.”
He’s right, at this point, yes you would like those calls to be different on the night, but they weren’t, and now the focus for Milwaukee is getting the all important road split and tying the series. When asked how the group is feeling leading into tonight, Prunty was upbeat.
“We’re very focused, all our guys were locked in at shoot around, we know what we need to get accomplished.” he said, “I was impressed from yesterday, in terms of retention from practice, things that we walked through, things that we need to do on both ends of the floor. So we know all of our guys are locked in.”
Malcolm Brogdon followed a similar line when I asked if there was any concern about suffering a let down after such a hard fought loss.
“I’m feeling good, i’m feeling confident, but there’s always concern when you find yourself down a game in a series so it’s important for us to come out and win this one tonight so we have some momentum going back home.”
Overall the Bucks look like a group ready to take the Celtics best shot. Last year, the Bucks were able to head back to Milwaukee with the series tied at one a piece. Tonight, in Boston, the aim is to achieve the same result.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Find a little help for Giannis and Khris: The Bucks have been top heavy all season. Giannis, Middleton and Bledsoe have largely carried this team to the majority of their victories. In game one, Bledsoe picked an unfortunate time to have a rare poor performance. In 32 minutes he had just nine points and four assists, while committing five turnovers. Jabari Parker was another key player that was well off his game, playing just 14 minutes for two points and displaying some questionable effort on defense. Prunty tightened the rotation to effectively eight men with Tyler Zeller the ninth, only playing four minutes. The Bucks need more contributors and it will be interesting to see if a Matthew Dellavedova or a Shabazz Muhammad see some time tonight. Giannis and Khris scored 66 points between them. The rest of the squad only contributed 41. That’s not going to cut it.
- Cut down on the turnovers: The Bucks dug themselves an early double digit hole in game 1, committing eight turnovers in the first quarter. They were able to tidy up their play somewhat the rest of the way but 20 overall is not going to be a catalyst for a road playoff victory. 16 of the giveaways came from the starting group as Blesoe (5), Giannis (4), Middleton (3) and John Henson (3), struggled to take care of the ball against the leagues best regular season defense. Milwaukee need to continue to look to move and share the ball, but with control. The first quarter turnover frenzy resulted in Milwaukee attempting only 15 shots to Boston’s 24. That doesn’t seem like a ratio that will be conducive to winning basketball.
- Keep prying hands away from big Al: Al Horford is a hell of a player. He won’t always give you huge box score numbers, but he’s smart, and he knows how and when to take advantage of a vulnerable defense. On Sunday afternoon he went to work. Horford was a dominant force down low, finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. A large number of his points came at the charity stripe however, as he knocked down 13 of his 14 attempts. It’s absolutely vital for Milwaukee to keep key players from reaching on Horford in those post up situations. Giannis is notorious for his aggressive defense, which is incredibly effective a lot of the time, but can see him rack up unnecessary fouls that the Bucks can ill afford. If big Al is able to spend that much time at the free throw line again tonight, the Bucks might be in trouble.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus