Let’s try playing some defense
For a long, long stretch of time in the first half, the Bucks were getting whatever shot they wanted. Khris Middleton was eating up whoever guarded him and nearly every possession in transition ended in a Milwaukee layup.
Now, some of it was luck. Thon Maker (a career 33% 3PT shooter) won’t make every three. Giannis won’t continue to drain jumper after jumper. Even Khris Middleton should miss eventually, though I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.
But what wasn’t lucky was how poor the Boston Celtics effort was in the first half and leading into the third. After Milwaukee made a few moves, the C’s were toast. If there was a stat for wide open shots, the Bucks were +10 at least.
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For me, the real takeaway from the defensive end was the absence of Marcus Smart. The Bucks were running countless pick and rolls and switches against Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier. Often times, Khris Middleton would get post ups and the much smaller guards could do nothing but watch. Turnaround jumpers over guys smaller than him are layups for Middleton. Against Marcus Smart, the degree of difficulty of those shots grows exponentially.
As good as Rozier was in Games 1&2 on offense, Smart is the better option. Eric Bledsoe has evened the score and odds are he will get the better of Rozier for the rest of the series. Putting even a hobbled Smart on Bledsoe should lead to more success.
Also, speaking of switching, Aron Baynes has looked nothing like the premier defender he was in the regular season. Against John Henson, anyone can hold their own. Against Thon Maker, he looked lost and for some reason was giving him wide open threes. The brief success he had guarding Giannis in Boston is nowhere to be found in Milwaukee. In switches guarding Khris Middleton, that’s an easy two or three for the Bucks.
Unfortunately for Boston, there is no clear option to solve this. Horford has been formidable against Giannis (“just” 46 points in Games 3&4), but he doesn’t match up well against Maker. I guess you just have to play the numbers and assume that Maker will be more like the guy who played only a few minutes in the first two games. Against Toronto last year, Maker was a lot worse on the road. You just have to hope the same can be said this year.