MILWAUKEE – The Celtics are no different than most NBA teams that have successfully defended home court through the first couple playoff games.
As good as things may appear to be, taking what has worked at home on the road is easier said than done.
“We’re up 2-0, but we’ve seen teams lose [series after being up] 2-0,” said Celtics forward Marcus Morris. “So, we’ve got to go to Milwaukee and continue to take care of business.”
And while it may sound like typical coach speak, Brad Stevens has every reason to sound the alarm about this series being far from over, even with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“They’ve got a lot of strengths we’ve got to do a good job against,” Stevens said. “They put you in a lot of tough positions on offense and defense.”
The biggest issue for Boston up to this point has been at the defensive end of the floor where the Celtics have allowed the Bucks to shoot 53.8 percent from the field, which is tops among all playoff teams.
Boston’s defensive rating in the playoffs (105.9) ranks ninth among the 16 teams in the postseason, a noticeable dip from their league-leading 101.5 defensive rating in the regular season.
Still, the Bucks have in many ways been their own worst enemy, averaging a league-high 17.5 turnovers per game which have led to a total of 48 points for the Celtics which is tied with Oklahoma City for the most points scored off turnovers in the playoffs thus far.
To put that in perspective, Milwaukee’s turnovers have accounted for 20.6 percent of the points scored by Boston in this playoff series.
In the regular season, points off turnovers accounted for 17.0 percent of the points scored by the Celtics.
And that doesn’t even include the hustle plays that are also going Boston's way.
According to nba.com/stats, the Celtics have 66 box-outs compared to 62 by Milwaukee. And when it comes to getting loose balls, Boston has the edge there as well, 22-19.
In the postseason, those are the little things that on many nights, is the difference between having a “good try, good effort” loss or one in which you claw and fight your way towards victory.
Boston has played with a deep understanding of this.
The Milwaukee Bucks?
Not so much.
“We just have to be more into it, got to be a more desperate and hungry team,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said following the Game 2 loss.
While the cast of characters who stepped up in Games 1 and 2 varied slightly for Boston, the fundamental keys to Boston’s victories over the Bucks remained very much the same.
But there’s no telling what impact Milwaukee returning home will have on what has worked thus far for the Celtics.
But one thing all involved know – it can't hurt the Bucks, who know a Game 3 loss would all but end any hopes of moving on to the next round.