Not much went right for the Boston Celtics in their Game 1 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. Al Horford played solid defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marcus Smart powered through the injuries he suffered, and Robert Williams looked spry in his full-time return to the court. Those were pretty much the only positives.
It was a game full of turnovers and sloppy offensive possessions. Milwaukee’s hard-nosed defense halted the majority of Boston’s attempts to get into the paint thanks to incredible performances from Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. That’s always been their game plan.
Milwaukee’s defensive scheme involves packing the paint and allowing their opponents to shoot a lot of threes. They are determined to make life difficult down low, and as a result, they end up giving up a bunch of open threes. The Bucks put that plan into action on Sunday, and unfortunately for Boston, they just weren’t able to connect on enough threes.
Boston fell into Milwaukee’s defensive trap in a big way. They took all of the open threes that the Bucks gave them, totaling 50 attempts in the game. To put that number into perspective, the Celtics only took 34 shots from inside the arc. After the game, Antetokounmpo’s reaction to that statistic was priceless.
Antetokounmpo Reacts to Celtics’ 50 Threes
During Antetokounmpo’s post-game press conference, a reporter asked him about Boston’s 49 three-point attempts (it was actually 50). Antetokounmpo was visibly shocked at the statistic, obviously in awe at the number of threes the Celtics attempted in the first game of the series.
The reporter asked Antetokounmpo whether or not the Bucks were trying to force the Celtics to take threes. And although that has commonly been the team’s defensive gameplan, Antetokounmpo said they weren’t. He said that’s just how the Celtics play offense:
No, I think as a team they like to shoot the three-point shot. Especially, when they make them, they get going. But for us like we got to just make it as tough as possible for them. It’s going to be contested threes, so be it, if it’s gonna be twos, contested twos or fades a lot of fadeaways, so be it. But at the end of the day we just got to make it as tough as possible for them.
Despite Antetokounmpo’s statement, the numbers show otherwise. During the regular season, the Bucks gave up more three-pointers per game than any other team in the league (40.6). However, their interior defense has been on another level lately, and that showed up in Game 1.
Bucks’ Interior Defense Stifled Celtics
In the playoffs so far, opponents have shot only 55.1 percent against the Bucks less than five feet from the basket. That number ranks first in the NBA, with the next-best team (the Memphis Grizzlies) allowing 57.3 percent shooting. That’s a 2.2 percent difference.
The Celtics fell into this trap in Game 1, as they only managed to make 10 two-point shots throughout the course of the game. And while all of them came within five feet of the basket, Boston shot just 10-for-23 on those shots, coming out to 43.5 percent.
Antetokounpo’s and Lopez’s defense in the paint was enough to completely shut down Boston’s attack inside the arc. And even when the Celtics got open threes, they weren’t able to make enough of them to punish the Bucks’ defensive gameplan. In the end, this resulted in a 12-point loss for the Celtics and a hilarious reaction from Antetokounmpo after the game.