Reaction to Boston Celtics loss to Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3.
After one Giannis Antetokounmpo drive to the rim, one of the ESPN commentators said, “the body of a Greek god, and the execution of an NBA MVP.” High praise, but Antetokounmpo certainly earned it Friday night. He put up a 32 point, 13 rebound, 8 assist, three blocks, two steal stat-line that doesn’t seem to do justice to how impactful he was.
The Celtics couldn’t stop him driving to the rim.
In Game 1, Al Horford kept him from getting there. It was in part thanks to a loose whistle (despite what Hubie Brown says, you can’t just stick your forearm into someone’s chest on defense).
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They didn’t get that whistle Friday night – Giannis got to the line 22 times. Celtics twitter was freaking out about it, but most of the calls were fine. They were getting to the right spot at the right time frequently, but when you’re Gordon Hayward or Marcus Morris or Jaylen Brown (who fouled out, by the way) there’s only so much you can do to stop the flying limb machine that is Giannis Antetokounmpo. If you try to contest, you’ll often get an arm caught in there.
On the other end, Antetokounmpo was just as sensational. His three blocks don’t fully convey his impact. His presence near the rim frequently deterred Boston drives, which was a big factor in the 52-24 points in the paint disparity.
Check out this shot profile breakdown from Jay King at The Athletic.
"Milwaukee took 33 shots inside the restricted area, nine other shots inside the paint and just four midrange 2-pointers. The Celtics tried 18 shots in the restricted area, nine other shots in the paint and 14 midrange 2-pointers."
That’s been a big part of the story of the series. The Bucks, per NBA.com, have gotten 28.0 attempts in the restricted area per game and shot 61.9 percent – the Celtics, per NBA.com, have gotten 19.7 attempts and shot 59.3 percent (if you’re a Celtics fan lamenting the foul calls, note this disparity before you Tweet about the referees).
The Milwaukee Bucks are shooting eight mid-range jumpers a game, compared to Boston’s 19. That’s part of Boston’s ethos, and they’re shooting well (49 percent) from mid-range. But when Milwaukee is getting to the rim and getting so many layups and free throws, the mid-range jumpers won’t do unless you’re red hot.
Both teams are stroking it from deep, and will likely continue doing so. The difference is going to come from inside.
Time for another change?
Brad Stevens elected to give Aron Baynes only four minutes in Game 3, likely because he just couldn’t stop Giannis on the drive. He just doesn’t have the lateral quickness, which was a big part of why he was a -19 in only 10 minutes in Game 2.
You read that right – in the 38 minutes where Baynes sat in Game 2, the Boston Celtics were only -2. They were in that game for those minutes. But the Bucks annihilated them whenever Baynes was on the floor, often because Giannis drove around him for a bucket or got fouled (Aron Baynes had four personal fouls – again, an almost impressive feat in almost 10 minutes).
You wonder, though, if the best version of the Boston Celtics is going to involve Baynes. He was a big part of their game 1 defensive success. He doesn’t have the footspeed to stay with Giannis, but he’s a big body who knows how to defend in the post. Maybe you make some schematic changes and drop him back more consistently, letting him wall off the paint. It’s certainly not a perfect solution, but Game 4 is a must-win and the last two games haven’t been close.
If you’re Brad Stevens, you have to try something different.
Kyrie has to be Kyrie
You also have to call on Kyrie Irving to do more. He had some moments where he looked like the star scorer he is, wiggling to the rim and hitting shots that look difficult but are easy for him. But he also got frustrated and settled far too often.
Considering he’s an actual genius, you need more than an 8-22 shooting night from him. His defense has consistently been good in these playoffs (the quiet 6 deflections last night led both teams), but he needs to be an efficient offensive player if the Celtics are going to have a chance.
The 42-16 bench disparity didn’t help, either.
The Boston Celtics got nothing from Terry Rozier in 14 minutes, and only 10 points on 2-8 shooting from Hayward (who had a nice night distributing the ball, but again reminded us he’s not back to his pre-injury form yet).
Pat Connaughton scored 14 points and had some awesome hustle plays. George Hill had 21 points and looked like the most athletic bench player from either team (yikes). The Celtics really miss Marcus Smart.
Overall, the Boston Celtics really weren’t that bad.
The mid-rangers were noteworthy, but that’s a big part of their identity at this point and they (usually) aren’t the horrific-shot-selection type that defined the early part of the season. They’re in-rhythm looks from great shooters. And the Bucks put up a lot of points, but Boston generally played smart defense (apart from a few possessions where they seemed frustrated and lost focus).
There are things to improve upon, but a loss like this makes you wonder if this team has the horses to stick with Milwaukee. It sounds sacrilegious, but this team won 60 games for a reason. And the Boston Celtics won 49 for a reason. It’s going to take some Kyrie Irving heroics and some Brad Stevens ingenuity to counter in Game 4.