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Monday, May 02, 2022

Bucks Dominate Celtics in Paint En Route to 101-89 Win

The Boston Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets, but on Sunday afternoon the Milwaukee Bucks reminded the world that there is a big difference between being the NBA champion and being crowned as a paper champion before the season. The NBA champion Bucks beat the Celtics 101-89 while holding Boston to .333 field goal shooting and just 10 two point field goals made. The Bucks' defensive strategy is to protect the paint and force their opponents to beat them from three point range. The Celtics attempted 50 three pointers and made 18 for a decent .360 percentage, but those are numbers that the Bucks will accept every game, as long as they continue to keep the Celtics out of the paint. The Bucks did not shoot very well (37-90 from the field, .411) but--contrary to the "stat gurus" who insist that the optimal NBA game strategy should be based on the notion of "three being more than two"--the reality of playoff basketball is that scoring in the paint and defending the paint are very important. Boston players and fans will no doubt say that the Celtics just missed shots that they would normally make, but that fails to take into account that Milwaukee is not a "normal" team. Also, it is unlikely that Giannis Antetokounmpo will have another 9-25 field goal shooting performance (.360) in this series, even though Al Horford is known for defending him as well as anyone.

Antetokounmpo dominated the game despite his subpar shooting, posting his second career playoff triple double while leading both teams in rebounds (13) and assists (12). His putback dunk after passing the ball to himself off of the backboard was the highlight of the game, but his defense, rebounding, passing, and paint scoring were the biggest stories of the game. 

Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 25 points on 8-20 field goal shooting while contributing nine rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Bobby Portis added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Book Lopez' numbers do not jump out of the box score (six points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots), but his size, mobility, and physicality played a major role in preventing Boston from scoring in the paint. The Bucks won game one without the services of All-Star Khris Middleton, who will likely miss the entire series after suffering a knee injury in the first round.

Jayson Tatum outplayed Kevin Durant in the first round, but he shot just 6-18 from the field and he finished with 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Jaylen Brown also struggled to score against Milwaukee's stifling defense (12 points, 4-13 field goal shooting). Horford had 12 points and 10 rebounds in addition to playing solid defense on Antetokounmpo, but he did not make a shot inside the three point arc.

Each game in a playoff series tends to have a slightly different specific story line, but the broad matchup tendencies remain constant throughout a playoff series. Here, Milwaukee's size poses tremendous problems for Boston at both ends of the court. Boston can and probably will play better, but Milwaukee also can and probably will play better; the game to game specifics will change, but the Celtics will not grow taller during this series, and the Bucks will not change their strategy of forcing the Celtics to beat them from outside of the paint.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:43 AM



At Monday, May 02, 2022 9:45:00 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Not sure why the Bucks were so concerned with avoiding the Nets in retrospect, they've been dominant in the playoffs so far.

The way they draped themselves all over the Celtics last night was impressive and if they can manhandle this Celtics team, they would have had no problem with the Nets either.

Don't see much in the way of stopping them for the rest of these playoffs honestly considering how strong their defense has been. They have already proved they can beat the Suns in a series without homecourt advantage and I don't think any of the other remaining teams out west stack up with them all that well.

At Monday, May 02, 2022 12:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The healthy return of Brook Lopez has coincided with the Bucks' defense becoming elite again, and this has enabled them to overcome the absence of Middleton. The Bucks are the best team in the NBA, but the "experts" are slow to recognize this because they are focusing on other narratives.


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