MILWAUKEE — Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka didn’t reach for excuses as to why his team lost Game 3 of their best-of-7 series 103-101 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Instead, the first-year coach highlighted the Celtics’ inconsistencies throughout the second half, especially during the third quarter of Saturday’s game.
Udoka’s first order of business during his media availability following practice at Milwaukee Sunday addressed how Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo netted a game-high 42 points on 16-of-30 attempts, including 9-of-12 from the three-throw line.
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Ime Udoka Explains How Celtics Will Improve Vs. Antetokounmpo
How can Boston prevent Antetokounmpo from going for 40+ points again in Game 4, and which Celtics players will Ime lean on the most in attempting to slow the Greek Freak down?
“It’s a mix at times. Everybody’s guarding him,” Udoka said on Sunday. “They’re targeting specific matchups, and our defense is based on our individual defenders — it’s the first foundation of it. So, understanding the way he wants to score we gambled at times and gave him open driving lanes. So, we could be better as far as that. But, keeping him off-balance, giving him different matchups has worked well and their main thing is: making him score in the halfcourt.”
Milwaukee not only held the Celtics to 17 third-quarter points in Game 3, but they also tacked on 34 points after halftime.
Udoka: How Celtics Plan to Unlock Jayson Tatum
And they did it while limiting All-Star Jayson Tatum, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-19 from the floor, 0-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc — which led to Udoka’s second order of business on the day; Tatum’s offensive slump.
“They were physical on the perimeter,” Udoka said. “I don’t feel like we set up and used the screens properly, last game, and set screens like we did in Game 2, and that was a big point of emphasis after Game 1, was us releasing some of that pressure by setting screens. And we did it and got wide-open looks in Game 2. Not as clean in Game 3, but also, we had looks, and like I said, just overthought it at times. And didn’t take the shots that were there in front of him. We know him and JB (Jaylen Brown) are elite mid-range shooters.
“When they come off clean and get those looks, they should take them every time. At times, because of the way they’re loading up in the paint, I think we’re passing up some shots and then kind of dribbling too deep into their defense. That seemed to be the case in the last game.”
Udoka is confident the Celtics can revert to containing Giannis in the halfcourt set. After holding Antetokounmpo to below-40% shooting in the opening two matchups of the series, the Celtics succumbed to committing turnovers while growing frustrated with the officiating — which, according to Udoka, led to sloppy play in the second half.
“The way Antetokounmpo plays is the way he plays, and we know that we understand that you have played through contact and physicality,” Udoka said. “So, he’s a tough guy to officiate, but we got to stand our ground and meet that force with force. Overall, the refs have a tough job, as far as that. And, literally, the one play that stood out was obviously a big one at the end. But, it’s things we have to play through and be better and not leave it in the hands of the refs — which we can’t do.”
On Monday, the Celtics will look to even the series 2-2 with a Game 4 win at Milwaukee.