BOSTON (CBS) — The Milwaukee Bucks are not the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics knew that going into the second round of the NBA playoffs on Sunday, but that concept was battered into Boston’s psyche over and over throughout a 101-89 drubbing in Game 1.
After being the pummelers throughout the first round, the Celtics were the pummelees to start the Eastern Conference semis. The Bucks built a wall around the basket at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon, and the Celtics didn’t really seem interested in trying to break it down. Milwaukee’s big lineup of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis kept the paint on lockdown in Game 1, and the Celtics cowered at the perimeter for 50 of their 84 attempts. They made just 18 of those attempts in a rather woeful offensive display.
The Celtics hit just 28 baskets overall in their Game 1 loss, as the Bucks completely threw them out of rhythm. Boston thrives when its offense comes from its defense, but there was none of that on Sunday. The Celtics were never allowed to get out in transition, and scored just eight points on the fast break. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were mystified by the Milwaukee defense, hitting just 10 of the 31 shots between the two. Tatum, with 21 points, was the only Boston player to score above the teens.
Any Celtics player that dared enter the paint was immediately punished for their efforts. The Celtics were just 10-for-22 around the basket, and a dreadful 0-for-9 just outside of the restricted zone. It was as though they were an entire team of Derrick Whites, hitting just 29.4 percent from inside the three-point line.
That led to Boston’s over-reliance on the three, and with their long-range attack off as well, it was a recipe for disaster.
They were quite literally beat up throughout Sunday’s game, with Marcus Smart leaving the game with a shoulder stinger and a quad bruise in the first half. Robert Williams also took a knee to a pretty sensitive area. This series is going to make Round 1 against the Nets seem like a pillow fight.
Defensively, the Celtics actually did a pretty decent job on Giannis on Sunday. He was contained to a 9-for-25 shooting day, but even that wasn’t enough, as Antetokounmpo still torched Boston for a 24-13-12 triple-double. He was the big kid on the playground playing with preschoolers, even throwing a pass to himself off the backboard. That pretty much summed up the Celtics’ Sunday.
Now they find themselves in a 1-0 series hole and facing a must-win Game 2 on Tuesday night. They fell back into a lot of their bad habits of the first half, abandoning what went right during their nearly flawless four months of basketball in the second half of the regular season.
Discouraging? It certainly is. But head coach Ime Udoka is hoping it’s a firm reminder to get back to what worked so well since January.
“I felt it’s, in a way, good to get this dud out of the way offensively,” said Udoka. “To lose a 12-point game when we played that poorly offensively, I think, bodes well for us.”
While the Jays will probably snap out of their offensive slump in Game 2, chances are so will Giannis. The Celtics have to do everything in their power to win Tuesday night, because heading to Milwaukee with a 2-0 series deficit against the defending champs is as insurmountable as it gets.
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