Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoffs

3 takeaways as Milwaukee dominates


In a desperation Game 3 on their home floor, the Milwaukee Bucks came out and destroyed the Boston Celtics to trim the Celtics’ series lead to 2-1.

The Milwaukee Bucks were a popular upset pick in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, and the Bucks finally showed why with a dominant 116-92 Game 3 victory on Friday night. The Celtics still lead the series 2-1, but Milwaukee now has more confidence and a good chance to tie the series on its home floor in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps the presence of new minority owner Aaron Rodgers brought the Bucks some luck, but whatever the case, they played with the necessary desperation while trying to dig out of a hole. Milwaukee started the game with a new lineup thanks to John Henson’s back injury and Tony Snell’s ineffectiveness, with Tyler Zeller and Malcolm Brogdon taking their places. While Zeller and Brogdon had nondescript games overall, the Bucks as a unit came out firing and led 16-6 midway through the first quarter.

Milwaukee never took the foot off the gas. The Bucks held the Celtics to 12 first-quarter points and took a 58-35 lead by halftime. Boston finally found its offense in the third quarter and appeared on the verge of making one of its patented runs on several occasions, but Milwaukee had an answer each time and ultimately ran away with the easy win.

Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo continued the individual excellence that they’ve displayed throughout this series. Middleton led the Bucks with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He shot 10 of 17 from the field and cashed jumpers from all over the floor. Antetokounmpo’s numbers were down by his standards, but he still recorded 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. He even knocked down three triples and also did this:

Finally, though, The Greek Freak and Middleton got help. Milwaukee shot 57.7 percent and hit 16 3-pointers while three other players scored in double figures. The Bucks also only turned the ball over nine times after being extremely sloppy in Boston.

Takeaways

The Celtics offense regressed to the mean against a spirited Bucks defense. The Celtics posted a monster 113.2 offensive rating in the first two games in Boston, but they were due for a down game given their injury situation. While there was some natural regression to the mean, the Bucks’ defense deserves a lot of credit for it.

Milwaukee’s aggressive, switchy defense forced Boston into a lot of ugly shots and turnovers to start the game. The Bucks also made it a point to deny entry passes into the post on switches, which helped gunk up the Celtics’ offense. Boston shot only 30.8 percent from the field in the first half and turned it over 14 times. The Celtics turned the ball over 18 times for the game, leading to 20 Bucks points.

Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier had much quieter games after their Boston explosions, with Rozier managing just nine points and committing five turnovers after coughing it up zero times in the first two games. Brown had a few nifty buckets, but he only had 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

The Bucks as a team played a terrific defensive game, but youngster Thon Maker provided an especially huge lift after barely playing to start the series. With no Henson, Joe Prunty turned to Maker as the backup center behind Zeller, and the young big man blocked five shots and altered countless others in his 24 minutes of work. Milwaukee blocked 13 shots on the night.

The Bucks’ bench provided a huge lift. Maker wasn’t just great on defense. He poured in 14 points and spaced the floor by hitting three of his four 3-point attempts. He also attempted seven throws and was a team-best plus-23.

In addition to Maker, Jabari Parker provided quality minutes off the bench after expressing frustration with his limited role. While Parker played only 25 minutes combined in Games 1 and 2 for a reason, he also played 30 minutes in Game 3 for a reason.

The young forward was much more aggressive offensively, going for 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He finished around the basket with authority and made all six of his shots at the rim. He also scored seven straight points during an important stretch of the third quarter when Giannis went to the bench and the Celtics were threatening.

Plus, Parker showed a lot more effort on the defensive end and wasn’t a complete sieve. That’s a huge win, and the Bucks should be thrilled that Parker finally found his groove.

Snell and Matthew Dellavedova made contributions off the bench as well, with Dellavedova playing his typically pesky defense against the Celtics’ guards.

Welcome to the series, Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was a disaster in Game 1 and wasn’t that much better in Game 2. Not only was he bad on the court, but he was roasted for the comments he made about Rozier.

Bledsoe finally got the better of Rozier in Game 3. The Bucks guard brought consistent energy and made better decisions. He had 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with four assists and four rebounds while turning the ball over only once.

Bledsoe made it a point throughout the game to fire up the raucous home crowd, and this is the version of the electric guard Milwaukee needs to see moving forward. If the Bucks are going to win this series, he can’t be getting soundly outplayed by Rozier. This was a major step in the right direction.



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