John Archer– So Sean, to recap: The Milwaukee Bucks handled the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi’s by the score of 123-102. Khris Middleton looked unstoppable, going 7-10 from the 3-point line en-route to 29 points. Kyrie had maybe his worst playoff performance of his career, going 4-18 from the field. And Giannis shimmied like Steph Curry. As the series shifts to Boston for Game 3, how are you feeling about your Celtics?
Sean Maloney– I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous after that game two performance. That being said, the Celtics did what they were supposed to do! Sure going up 2-0 would’ve been a pleasant little surprise but stealing home court, let alone in game one, was a HUGE victory. Especially for a team that has struggled on the road as much as the C’s. They showed that when they actually put it together and play well they can pick up wins on the road in hostile environments. Another positive, Kyrie Irving is not, cannot, and will not play that poorly again. Especially in the Garden. A place he’s said he wants his number to hang in the rafters.
My biggest concern is Jayson Tatum. Where is the guy that led the team in PPG during last post season? The guy who put his head down and attacked the paint at will. The guy WHO DID THIS!! I need that Jayson Tatum in my life. I jokingly said that Kobe ruined him this off-season by working him out, but his game has changed. He averaged 3 FTA per game in the regular season and too often settled for tough two’s and threes. That’s got to change.
That being said I feel good heading to the Garden for these next two. The Bucks will have to expect contributions out of guys like Lopez, Connaughton, and Sterling Brown in an extremely tough environment on the road in big games that they haven’t really been a part of. No offense to Detroit but the Garden is a different animal.
John– No, you’re absolutely right. The Boston Garden is a tough place to play as a visitor, and the emotion is only going to be heightened with the series knotted up at 1-1. I’m glad you brought up Lopez though, because he’s my main concern going into Game 3. Splash Mountain was a -12 in 24 minutes in Game 2, shooting 3-8 from 3 and totaling 10 points and 4 rebounds. He’s been pretty ineffective in this series so far, and for the Bucks offense to truly shine like it did in the regular season, they need the Lopez who transformed himself into the premier 3-point threat from the center position in the NBA.
If we aren’t going to get that Lopez, Coach Bud needs to adjust his rotations and reduce Brook’s time on the floor. Now that we know Brogdon is going to be out for Game 3 that could mean starting Mitotic at the 5, and re-inserting Sterling Brown in at the 2. Or maybe it’s finally time for my man DJ Wilson to get some non-garbage time minutes. Either way, if Lopez isn’t stroking it from deep the Bucks can’t withstand his mismatch with Al Horford on defense.
Sean- Brook Lopez is absolutely going to be crucial for the Bucks during these two games in Boston. As is Drew, sorry Eric, Bledsoe. He finally performed well against the C’s in game two and it obviously made a major difference. If the Bucks get that Bledsoe they are in good shape. However if they guy who got outplayed by Rozier last year shows up in last years series, it’s entirely possible this series goes back to Milwaukee with the Bucks down 1-3. I like my chances against Bledsoe.
That being said SOMETHING has to be done about Middleton. Brad Stevens finally admitted that they’re going to have to pay more attention to him. Which worries me because that means more room for Giannis to operate in the paint. It’s going to take a total defensive effort from the C’s in this one. Game 3 historically will dictate the rest of the series, and we should be in for another great game tonight.
John- Yeah, as much as we like to talk about Giannis being the most important Bucks player, over the last two years it seems the key to defeating the Celtics has been Middleton. Boston seems content to game plan for stopping Giannis and hope that Middleton has a cold game shooting, and that plan backfired in Game 2. If Middleton and Bledsoe show up for Game 3, Boston will face a tough test on their home court.