After a disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening game of their second-round playoff series, the Boston Celtics are heading back to the drawing board.
Despite their stellar performances against the Brooklyn Nets just a week prior, Boston looked shellshocked by the end of their game against Giannis Antetokounmpo and co. as their defense was picked apart and offensive gameplan stymied. Throughout the regular season, Ime Udoka ensured his team was a force to be reckoned with when pressuring the rim on offense, yet somehow, the Celtics came away from their May 1 game with just 10 made two-point attempts in the game.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both underwhelming in the contest, as neither could find a way to break down the Bucks’ elite-level rim protection. Brown, who ended the game with seven turnovers came in for some criticism from fans on social media, as he struggled to provide Boston with any form of impact in the game.
However, following the team’s loss, Tatum told the media that he had total belief in Brown, and backed him to prove his worth as the series wears on.
“I mean, s–t, we all had a rough night. Nobody should hang their heads down. We’re in this together, right? All that matters is if you win or lose. I got all the faith in the world in JB,” Tatum told the media when asked about his teammate’s struggles.
Celtics Defense Let’s Them Down
Throughout the season, Ime Udoka has ensured that Boston remained competitive on the defensive end of the floor by implementing a “switch everything” system. At first, the Celtics struggled to execute their high-intensity defensive scheme, but as the season wore on, Boston quickly evolved into the best defense in the NBA.
However, against Giannis, defensive gameplans often go out of the window. And for Boston, that’s precisely what happened. Despite Al Horford and Grant Williams both performing admirably when tasked with guarding the superstar forward, the Celtics often found themselves sending double-teams at Giannis, which allowed him to pick apart their defense with his passing.
“I felt that especially when he’s looking straight at you, trying to bait you with the pass out of the double team, that we went too quick at times. Our rotations weren’t sharp and those guys rely on him to get open three-point shots. They had 6-for-11 catch-and-shoot threes in the first half, and we gotta be better as far as that,” Ime Udoka said.
If the Celtics are to have any chance of containing Milwaukee’s kick-out three game moving forwards, they will need to limit how often they send double-teams toward Giannis, as Milwaukee are exceptionally at punishing such panic-ridden defense.
Celtics Turn Their Attention to Game Two
A playoff series is long and arduous, with multiple twists and turns throughout – or at least, that’s what you expect when two teams are evenly matched. So, it stands to reason that Boston will make the necessary adjustments before their Tuesday, May 3 contest against Milwaukee, as they look to tie the series before heading on the road.
Things can go two ways here. Either the Celtics win game two and head to Milwaukee looking to split their games away from home, or they lose on Tuesday night and are forced to alter their approach in games three and four, which could spell trouble for their young roster.
“We understand what we’re up against,” Al Horford told the media following the Celtics’ loss, “We’re ready to move on for Tuesday.”
With no Khris Middleton, you would expect the Celtics to have the advantage in this series, but Milwaukee’s size and length in the frontcourt is a serious opponent that can limit easy buckets at the rim and make you think twice about driving into the paint. As such, Tatum and Brown will both need to be at their best to help their team overcome a stern opponent. Otherwise, this series could be the end of the road for Boston.