After two Celtics wins in Boston, the series now moves to Milwaukee. In the regular season, the Celtics split the 2 games in Milwaukee, winning one and losing one. The Celtics had a 28-13 record on the road this season while the Bucks were 25-16 at home. The Bucks are 22-19 all time in the first round at home.
Even though they won the first two games, the Celtics are going to have to play much better in this game to get a win. They allowed the Bucks to shoot 59.7% on Tuesday while Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 75% from the field. The Celtics must play better defense if they want to get a win on the road.
There are a few side stories developing in this series. When asked about his matchup with Terry Rozier, Eric Bledsoe claimed that he didn’t know who he was. Terry is taking the high road, saying that he doesn’t have a problem with Bledsoe, but Bledsoe continues to insist that he doesn’t know who Rozier is.
Jabari Parker has made his discontent about his lack of playing time known, saying that the way to get playing time was to be on the coach’s good side and that he didn’t think he was. Another side story is that Greg Monroe played for the Bucks for over 2 years and knows their tendencies and plays and can be a big help to the Celtics in planning their defenses for the game.
Game 3 is a pivotal game in any series. The historical probability of winning the series when a team is up 3 games to none is 100% (127-0). On the other hand, the historical probability of winning the series when up 2 games to 1 drops to 81% (124-29). No team has come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best of 7 series while 11 teams have come back from a 1-3 deficit. The Celtics are 35-0 all time in Game 3 when up 2-0. The Bucks are 0-13 all time in Game 3 when going in 0-2.
Marcus Smart got bad news that his mother has cancer and that has to weigh heavy on him and his teammates. His mom told him to go back to the team and that seeing him play would make her smile. He’s at least a week away from being back on the court. Along with Smart, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis are all still out.
For the Bucks, John Henson is listed as doubtful with a sore back. If Henson can’t play, Zeller is the most likely to take his place in the starting lineup or they may go with Thon Maker. Zeller has played a total of 9 minutes in the two games so far and had 2 points and 2 rebounds. Maker has played one minute and has no points and one rebound.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Marcus Smart (thumb) out
Probable Bucks Starters
John Henson (back) doubtful
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
Once again, this will be the key matchup. Antetokounmpo had 35 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in Game 1. He followed that up with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while shooting 75% from the field. Al has been great for the Celtics as well. He will need another big game on both ends of the court if they want to get a win in this one.
Jayson Tatum vs Khris Middleton
In Game 1, Middleton had 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. He shot 60% from the field and 71% from beyond the arc. In game 2, Middleton finished with 25 points, shooting 71% from the field and 66% from beyond the arc. It goes without saying that the Celtics need to do a better job defending Middleton in this game. Tatum struggled on the offensive end in game 2, scoring just 4 points. Hopefully he will find his touch again in this game.
Terry Rozier vs Eric Bledsoe
Rozier clearly outplayed Bledsoe in Games 1 and 2 and has gotten in his head prompting him to say he didn’t know who Rozier was when asked about him. Terry has refused to get into that and said he doesn’t have anything against Bledsoe and is just working to help make the Celtics better. Hopefully Terry can once again hold Bledsoe in check while continuing to play well on the offensive end.
Celtics Bench vs Bucks Bench
With all of the injuries, the Celtics bench has been depleted but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been effective. Shane Larkin, Greg Monroe and Marcus Morris have come up big for the Celtics off the bench. Guerschon Yabusele also pitched in 10 points off the bench in Game 2. The Celtics reserves scored 27 points to 23 points for the Bucks reserves in Game 1. In Game 2, the Celtics reserves put up 41 off the bench while the Bucks reserves scored 25 points. The Celtics reserves will need to continue to contribute if they want to get a win on the road.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The old adage that Defense wins Championships is very true, especially as teams go into the playoffs. Even though they have 2 wins so far in the series, the Celtics have let their defense slip. They have allowed the Bucks to shoot 48.2% from the field in the first game and 59.7% in the second game. If the Celtics want to win on the road, they are going to have to tighten up their defense, especially on Giannis and Middleton.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding will be key for the Celtics. The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball. It takes effort to rebound and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to get rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of their game. The Celtics barely out-rebounded the Bucks in game 45-43 in Game 1. Both teams had 38 rebounds in Game 2. The Celtics must continue to crash the glass as a team and give even more effort on the boards in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and on defense and going to the basket and grabbing rebounds. The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls. They need to be the team that wants it more for all 48 minutes. The Bucks’ coach has mentioned several times that the Celtics play harder and want it more. They need to continue that in this game.
Move the Ball Carefully - When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, they are tough to beat. However, the Celtics must make careful passes as the Bucks are 2nd in steals with 8.8 per game and 2nd in points off turnovers with 18.3 per game. The Celtics did a good job of this in Game 1, turning the ball over 15 times to 20 turnovers for the Bucks. They did an even better job in Game 2 with 5 turnovers to 15 for the Bucks. They need to continue to take care of the ball and play unselfishly.
Coaching - So far, Brad has been able to push all the right buttons and use the right strategies to win Games 1 and 2. The players have given him the credit for preparing them for the games and giving them the right plays at the right time to pull out the wins. He has been careful to keep minutes down as much as possible and he has the team playing well together. The Bucks have some discord going and haven’t been able to match the Celtics’ intensity so far. Hopefully that continues.
On the Road - The Celtics were a good road team this season with a 23-18 record away from home. The Bucks were also pretty good at home with a 25-16 home record. The Celtics need to stay focused on playing their game and not let the hostile environment distract them. The Bucks’ young players will likely play better at home and so the Celtics need to be ready for them with tougher defense.
Officiating - So far, the officiating has been decent. There have been bad calls and missed calls going both ways. Of course, Giannis gets away with travels and offensive fouls but they have let Horford get away with a few things also. With Scott Foster as the lead ref, it’s hard to tell what we will get in this one. At times he calls games one sided and is a tyrant with the whistle, calling every little thing and at other times he calls it evenly and lets them play.
Tim Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes. Let’s hope that he calls the game fairly and evenly and lets both teams play.