MILWAUKEE | Needing a win to avoid going to the east-coast down 2-0, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 123-102 on Tuesday.
Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Coming off one of his worst performances this season, Giannis played terrific in Game 2. He led the Bucks with a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. It was his second game of the playoffs with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds, and the fifth such game of his career.
“Usually, after a [bad] game and a bad loss at home, you get a little bit fed up and start hesitating,” Giannis said. “All I can do is trust my teammates, go back and look at the tape to see what I did right and wrong. I just came into Game 2 with the mindset of being aggressive and making the right plays.
Giannis looked like a completely different player. He was aggressive and attacked the paint time and time again. The Celtics sent him to the line 18 times. Also, Giannis looked to feed his teammates more. When Boston collapsed on him inside, he was ready to kick it out to the open man.
Needing to play with more effort was the theme coming out of practice Monday afternoon and Giannis led the way.
Play of the game: Greek Freak shimmy
If there is a weakness in his game it’s the long-ball, but Giannis hit two of them tonight and was feeling it after. But what he did after knocking one down in the face of Celtics’ center Aron Baynes is what got him the play of the game.
The good: Closing the third
Basketball is a game of runs. The Bucks went on their biggest run of the game to close the third quarter. They outscored Boston 24-4 in the final 7:41 of the frame. This is the stretch that really put the Celtics out of reach.
“To be honest with you, I thought we were competing and playing well defensively for the whole game,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The third quarter, maybe it was just a little bit of wearing them down or whatever it is, but we just stuck to what we were doing. Our guys were able to create some turnovers, create some misses, take care of the boards and get out and run. I thought the defense from the beginning was quality.”
Milwaukee did this a lot during the regular season. They can pull away late in games because their effort is usually there for a full 48 minutes. Boston looked worn down late in the third. The Celtics made careless passes which led to turnovers and missed several shots they normally make.
It all goes back to playing with effort and being themselves for the Bucks. They didn’t play hard enough in Game 1 according to every member of the team that was asked about it. That didn’t happen in Game 2.
The not so good: Slow start
The way Game 2 started was very similar to the way Game 1 started. Milwaukee had trouble knocking down their shots. They finished the quarter shooting 35% (7-20 FG). Giannis didn’t make a field goal but finished the frame with five points thanks to free throws.
Stat of the game: 20
All 12 members of the Bucks that saw action attempted at least one three-pointer. As a team they shot 47 of them, making an NBA Playoffs franchise-record 20.
Khris Middleton contributed the most from downtown as he hit seven of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc.
“We have to do it a lot better than we did,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s tough, he is an All-Star. He is one of the 12 best players in the East this year. He has had a good year and he has started that in the playoffs last year against us. We have to do a better job on him. We did not do a good enough job on him. He still might make it, but he got too many looks.”
What they said:
Budenholzer on the win…
Obviously, I think that’s more what we’re accustomed to seeing. I liked our spirit, our activity and our competitiveness up and down the roster. Giannis, Khris and Eric really set the tone. We just need to kind of capture that, take it to Boston with us and play that way out there.
Stevens on the loss…
I thought they dominated a lot in the first half and we were lucky to be down by four. They owned their space on both ends of the court better than we did. I thought our reaction to that was to settle on offense and it led to some run outs. Then it just steamrolled on us. They were great tonight, deserved to win, and we need to look at what we can do better. We knew they were going to be really good tonight and we talked about matching their urgency, meeting their urgency, but we didn’t do that and even in the first half you could see.
In case you missed it:
*This was the fourth game of the playoffs that the Bucks have won by 20+ points. The 21-point win also marked Milwaukee’s largest victory in a Conference Semifinal game since 1983 (116-95, Game 1 vs BOS).
*Milwaukee hauled in 54 rebounds as a team, tallying their fourth 50-rebound playoff game this postseason.
*The Bucks held the Celtics to 39.5% shooting on the night. This is the third time this postseason that Milwaukee has held its opponent to under 40% shooting.
*Pat Connaughton grabbed a playoff-career-high 11 rebounds, marking the first playoff game of his career with double-digit rebounds.
*The Celtics were led by Marcus Morris who finished the night with 17 points and matched his playoff-career-high with three three-pointers. This was his third time scoring in double figures this postseason.
*Boston also had Jaylen Brown (16) and Al Horford (15) score in double figures.
Next up the Bucks (1-1) head out to Boston to play the Celtics (1-1) in Game 3 on Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm.