Milwaukee knew something had to change after losing the first two games in Boston, the emphatic response that ensued throwing this first round series on it’s head. With the series now locked up at two a piece, the Bucks head back to Boston to try and do something that neither team has been able to achieve thus far. Claiming victory on the road.
Head coach Joe Prunty would have been fully aware adjustments were required, though it was the forced change that has proven to be the most influential. John Henson started and played 37 minutes in both of the first two games, providing a respectable presence at the five without being a game changer. Those 37 minutes per game were a bump up of 11 on his season average, and he withdrew from both game 3 and 4 with back soreness. This pushed Tyler Zeller to the starting role and Thon Maker into the rotation.
Maker’s feverish energy sparked the Bucks in game three and it carried over into game four. Registering five blocks in each contest, Thon has been an absolute terror in the paint for the Celtics offense and has now forced the Celtics to counter his influence moving forward.
Jabari Parker and Matthew Dellavedova have also been key contributors for the Bucks, who desperately needed help for the simply outstanding Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who continue to score with incredible efficiency. The Bucks star duo have combined to shoot a ridiculous 84-for-136 (62%) on the series, leading their team back into what is now essentially a best of three series.
For Boston, it’s been about shooting the ball, as Milwaukee have clamped down defensively, forcing them into tough shots that they have not been able to make with the regularity they did earlier in the series. Boston shot just 40 percent form the field in Milwaukee, and will hope the lid comes of the rim at the TD Garden in Boston Tuesday night.
On the injury front, Celtic guard Marcus Smart is listed as questionable, his return from a thumb injury potentially on the cards after it was revealed on the ABC broadcast of game four that his next review was scheduled for Tuesday in Boston. Smart hasn’t suited up since March 11th, when the injury was sustained in the Celtics loss to the Indiana Pacers. For Milwaukee, Henson will again miss, as Prunty revealed at shoot around this morning that he did not travel with the team to Boston.
Milwaukee are 1-3 at the TD Garden on the season, as they return to the venue they were blown out in last Tuesday. If the Bucks are to win the series and move on to the second round, they simply have to steal home court from Boston. Time will tell if the momentum so clearly in their possession heading in will carry through to bring a series altering result tonight.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Protect the glass: There’s just no other way to slice it, the Bucks have been utterly destroyed on the glass in this series so far. Milwaukee have astonishingly been out rebounded 26-54 on the offensive glass. Predictably resulting in a lop sided second chance point count that sits at a miserable 24-77 in the Celtics favour. Combined across the Bucks wins, they are still -25 in offensive boards and -24 in second chance points. If you weren’t aware of the series results, you would be well within your right to assume the Celtics had swept the Bucks with that kind of disparity in key stats. Giving Boston repeated opportunities to score in front of a parochial Garden crowd will not bode well for the Bucks chances. They simply need to find away to minimise the damage in this area.
- Bench contributions: Heading back to Milwaukee the overwhelming question mark loomed over the Bucks second unit. Could they find a way to contribute in a positive way? The answer was a resounding yes as Maker swatted ten shots, Parker provided two-way effort and Dellavedova returned to his pesky self over games three and four. It was evident the Bucks were able to feed off the always raucous playoff crowd at the Bradley Center, but the question now lingers as to whether they are able to get it done on the road. Antetokounmpo and Middleton are doing it all, they’ve had able companions over the last two, that will need to continue for Milwaukee to continue it’s winning ways.
- Cool off red hot Jaylen: Second year man Jaylen Brown is making a name for himself these playoffs, going to another level in what was already an impressive campaign for him in 17/18. Brown is averaging 23.8 points per game over the series on a scorching 46 percent from beyond the arc. With the Bucks surging to a 20 point lead mid way through the third quarter in game four, Brown came alive to score 17 points down the stretch and almost pinch and unlikely victory. Beware of Brown, he is turning into a post season monster before our eyes.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus