We’re at Game 7 and there are no more adjustments to be made. Turnovers were the story when the series opened up in Boston. That’s been cleaned up by both teams. Milwaukee replaced Tony Snell with Malcolm Brogdon and eventually inserted Thon Maker into the starting lineup. Boston countered by going small with Semi Ojeleye and Stevens has played his wildcard with the return of Marcus Smart.
And now we’re here after a Game 6 loss Thursday night.
The overreaction will be to point to the wide margin in fast break points. The stats don’t necessarily lie:
Final push ball transition poss. numbers:— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 27, 2018
Stevens: "There were some that were bad offense and there were some that were great plays by them and there were some that we need better transition defense performance on some possessions." https://t.co/OAHsl02hvB
One of the biggest reasons to fear the deer is their murderous transition game with the Greek Freak filling the lane like Slenderman in a nightmare. Because of their size, the Bucks are going to get their easy buckets, but if Boston has any chance in Game 7, they have mitigate those easy points on the break.
Like Stevens alluded to, fourteen of those points came off of Boston’s nine total turnovers, but they also missed 26 three-pointers that lead to long rebounds and leak outs. In other words, their defense might be a better offense at home. Thankfully, they’ve shot better at TD Garden than at The Bradley Center from behind the arc (38.6% vs. 31.5%), but the growing trend of shooting more and more threes as the series has progressed is a little troubling.
Since Game 2, 3FGA’s have consistently increased from 24 to 29 to 31 to 36 while the percentages have conversely plummeted from 33.3% to 34.5% to 32.3% to 27.8%. Some of this is a reaction to the Bucks stifling the Celtics in the paint in Games 3 and 4 with 26 blocks, but the Bucks have also just defended better. They’ve been tightening the screws ever since Game 2 and Milwaukee played its best defense in Game 6.
The Celtics can’t just rely on “making more shots at home.” There’s a confidence with some of the players that that will happen. Marcus Morris remarked:
“I think we got good looks,” Morris said. “We just didn’t make the ones that really mattered. I think we got really good looks. I think the ball moved really well. We went through a couple stints where it kind of got a little stagnant. But for the most part, I thought we moved it.”
Jayson Tatum echoed that “sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in. I feel like we made the right plays on a number of different occasions. Great looks. They didn’t go down today, but hopefully they do Saturday.” Surely, there’s magic on the parquet and they’ll get some help from Red and the leprechauns somehow, but they’ll also need to move the ball better and be more aggressive. Stevens couldn’t be any clearer Thursday night:
Brad Stevens to reporters in MIL on reasons for offensive stagnation: "Overdribbling and holding the ball. We gotta get it popping. I think we need to figure out what we can do very, very best and probably limit our menu even further and just do those things." https://t.co/JlZ0UwylVm— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 27, 2018
Brad: "Whenever any one person had the ball for more than a second or two, it was bad news for us. We had a stretch there, middle of third to middle of fourth where we had some tremendous possessions. The ball was really popping and then we stopped. That was part of our undoing."— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 27, 2018
Boston’s offensive sets are built so that when a player receives the ball, he’s either getting it in space, in motion, or coming off a screen. The read has to be quick, the reaction even quicker.
In all those scores, the cuts are deliberate and every dribble has purpose. Guys aren’t dancing with the ball and trying to break down defenders with a crossover. When Jayson Tatum finds Al Horford on the kick out, Horford makes the instantaneous jump pass to Jaylen Brown for the three. After Tatum finds Horford in the post, he zips back door for an and-1. When Tatum drives, Brown immediately fills a lane behind him. With Shane Larkin threatening to drive on the pick-and-pop, he finds Marcus Morris and Mook doesn’t hestitate to attack on the slower Jabari Parker. Quick, quick, quick. That’s what Boston will have to be in Game 7.
Energy won’t be a problem on Saturday night. Here’s Horford on the expected atmosphere at the Garden in Game 7:
"TD Garden is going to be great. As a basketball player, fan... one of the places that you want to enjoy. I'm looking forward to Saturday." - @Al_Horford #NBAPlayoffs | #CUsRise pic.twitter.com/DDajC8AM8b— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 27, 2018
“As a basketball player/fan, one of the places you want to enjoy and be at is The Garden for a Game 7.” Tip off is at 5 pm EST.