Celtics Right Where They Need to Be Entering Game 3

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Boston and Milwaukee’s best of seven Eastern Conference Semifinals has now become a best of five; for which the Celtics have home court advantage.  While the manner in which they lost Game 2 will certainly linger until tip-off Friday night, the team ultimately accomplished what any road team hopes to in the playoffs, and that is to win one of the first two games. 

Photo courtesy of NBA.com
Boston executed its gameplan to perfection in Game 1.  Defensively, they swarmed Giannis on every drive to the basket.  Al Horford did a masterful job staying between Giannis and the basket, and on the occasions where Horford got beat, there was always help.  Milwaukee's shooters missed some good looks, but Boston was determined to slow down Giannis and make the Bucks knock down shots.  It worked out.


Offensively, the Celtics got whatever and wherever they wanted on the floor.  Irving led the way with an efficient 26 points and 11 assists, and was one of five Celtics in double figures. Horford was unguardable in the pick and pop, consistently finding himself wide open.  He finished with a double-double himself with 20 points and 11 rebounds.  Gordon Hayward continued his surge, as he, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all had strong games. 


Game 2 was a bit of a different story.  Boston still did a pretty good job defending Giannis for the most part.  However, many felt the Bucks shooters would bounce back, and they did, in a big way.  Milwaukee outscored Boston 60-30 from three point range Tuesday night, as the Bucks shot better than 42% from long range.  This was a three point game with about seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, and then the wheels came off. 


Boston went ice cold, Milwaukee got red hot, and that was all she wrote.  As things spiraled out of control, Boston just couldn't make a shot, or get a stop defensively.  The Bucks never slowed down, feeding off of the crowd's energy.  The Celtics got away from what was working offensively, and stopped moving the ball.  There was too much isolation and some poor shot selection during that run, which ultimately sealed their fate.


Outside of Horford and Marcus Morris, the Celtics struggled to make shots and finished the night shooting just 39%.  Milwaukee definitely picked up its defensive intensity, but much like the Bucks did in game 1, Boston missed a lot of good looks.

Irving struggled mightily in Game 2, never able to find his rhythm.  It wasn't for a lack of effort.  He kept searching and searching, taking some poor shots along the way, but he never could get it rolling.  I wish he would've involved some of his teammates a little more, but I'm not sure it would have mattered with the way Milwaukee was shooting.

Despite Tuesday's loss, both Boston and Milwaukee should be feeling good entering Game 3.  Boston for stealing a game on the road, and Milwaukee for the way they played in Game 2.  I don't expect a ton of adjustments from each side.  Each will likely do its best to replicate its performance from their respective wins.

One thing I would like to see is for Jayson Tatum to get more involved.  He's had a couple of disappointing performances so far in this series, making just 4 of his 17 shots.  It has felt like he's been forcing it at times.  I'd like to see Brad run some stuff for him, so he can get some shots in rhythm, and get things cooking early.

With all of that being said, here's what I'm expecting in Game 3:
  • The TD Garden crowd to be electric
  • Kyrie to bounce back in a big way (i.e. put a 30 burger on Milwaukee)
  • Boston to be as physical as they were in Game 1
  • Giannis to continue to travel
  • Milwaukee to hit less than 20 three-pointers
  • Khris Middleton to continue to haunt the Celtics
  • Boston to win.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Celtics Right Where They Need to Be Entering Game 3
Celtics Right Where They Need to Be Entering Game 3
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