BOSTON – The Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks put on quite the show in their Game 1 battle, which ended with the Celtics edging the Bucks 113-107 in overtime.
Game 2 will have a different look and feel, with both teams aware that adjustments have to be made.
“There’s definitely some things we can do better, like cutting down turnovers,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton told NBC Sports Boston.
The Bucks turned the ball over 20 times in Game 1, resulting in 27 points for the Celtics.
Boston, which shot 41.5 percent, will look to connect at a higher clip against a Milwaukee team that, according to nba.com/stats, contested 77 of Boston’s 94 shot attempts (81.9 percent) in Game 1.
Milwaukee coach Joe Prunty said there were “a lot of little things” he took away from Sunday’s loss.
“We had the turnovers; 20 is too many,” he said. “The start in the first quarter wasn’t ideal. The points off turnovers and the offensive rebounds, that was another thing we addressed and talked about.”
As for the Celtics, their focus isn’t necessarily on doing anything all that different but rather, continue to do what they did in Game 1 more consistently. Specifically, Boston’s game plan to hit the Bucks with a steady diet of Al Horford on the block was a major factor in Game 1.
Horford had a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, doing so on 5-for-8 shooting. The five-time All-Star was 13-for-14 from the line, playoff career-highs in free throws taken and made. Indeed, the ball was in Horford’s hands a lot, which can be seen in him having 98 touches according to nba.com/stats.
The only player in Game 1 with more touches was Terry Rozier (124).
A good amount of Horford’s success offensively came while Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was defending him. The Greek Freak is a phenomenal talent with tremendous length, athleticism and ball-handling. But when Horford backed him down into the post -- which he did frequently in Game 1 -- Antetokounmpo’s strengths were of no help. And you can bet Boston will look to go down that route again tonight.
“[Horford] played well, but in the grand scheme of things we can do a little better in keeping him off the free-throw line, make him shoot over our length a little more,” Prunty said. “He makes a lot of plays for them; it’s not just scoring. The biggest thing is he’s going to have the ball in his hands, and depending on who is guarding him . . . you have to account for every position that he’s going to be in.”
Boston will also look to control the offensive glass like it did in Game 1, which resulted in a 22-4 advantage in second-chance points.
“I thought we had a couple fortunate bounces we took advantage of on scramble plays,” said coach Brad Stevens. “But I thought we also were very aggressive on the glass.”
That added aggression is needed if the Bucks go with a small-ball lineup that shifts Antetokounmpo to center.
“Rebounding is going to be a part of who we have to be,” Stevens said.
Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 35 points, and the Bucks got another 31 points from Khris Middleton. Beyond that, Milwaukee didn’t get much production from the rest of the team.
“We have to play within the flow of our offense, get in the right spots and guys have to be ready,” Antetokounmpo said. “The ball is going to find them eventually. Guys have to be ready to knock down shots and make the right play for the team.”
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One of the bigger disappointments for Milwaukee in Game 1 was Eric Bledsoe, a player the Celtics will once again have to contain if they are to take a 2-0 series lead.
“He’s a really good player,” said Stevens. “His ability to get downhill . . . he’s a hard guy to keep in front. Anytime you play a team with this much talent, you have to constantly be prepared for each of those guys to be at their best.
Stevens added, “He’s a really good defender, very strong, very athletic . . . he does a good job.”
The same can be said for Antetokounmpo who averaged 33.5 points against the Celtics during the regular season and has seemingly picked up where he left off.
“We know that we can do a lot better,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully we can win the game.”