Five ways the Celtics can even their series against the Bucks
BOSTON -- Jaylen Brown has the right idea.
“We have to be better,” Brown said.
And with the Celtics' Game 3 debacle in the books, it’s the only way Boston is going to climb out of its 2-1 series deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“We have to come out and respond and play the way we know we can play,” Brown said.
As Brown said earlier, it will require Boston to do whatever it is doing now, at a much greater, more impactful, more consistent level.
And more likely than not, it’ll require the Celtics to make some changes as well.
Here’s a look at five things the C's need to do better if they are to tie this series on Monday.
START SEMI OJELEYE
We said from the outset of this series to not be surprised if Semi Ojeleye plays a vital role, similar to what we saw from him last season when he was among the chief defenders on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the team’s playoff matchup last year.
Boston had Ojeleye defend Antetokounmpo for a large chunk of Game 3 and had mixed results courtesy of a few questionable calls. But there’s no question that outside of Al Horford, no other Celtic defends Antetokounmpo better than Ojeleye.
Having him with the first group takes some of the wear and tear off of Al Horford.
It also provides Boston with a stronger bench unit, something that was a major issue in Game 3 when the Bucks’ second unit outscored Boston’s group, 42-16.
Marcus Morris has been really good shooting the ball in this series, averaging 14 points per game on 72.7 percent shooting from the field. He becomes a major problem for the Bucks’ second unit and will likely be the biggest benefactor from Gordon Hayward’s playmaking.
BETTER BALL MOVEMENT
One of the strengths of this team, when they are really playing well, is their ability to keep the ball moving.
It’s not a coincidence that Boston’s best passing game in this series was Game 1 which they won in part by racking up 377 passes as a team.
One of the big issues in both Games 2 and 3, was how the Celtics hit a stretch of adversity and began playing “Hero Ball” in the hopes of trying to make a play on their own instead of just playing through one another so that many of those good shot attempts become great ones in rhythm.
For them to play better in Game 4 and emerge with the win, Boston has to show more patience offensively which involves sharing the ball more than we’ve seen in the past two games.
In the regular season, Boston was one of the more mistake-free teams with a 12.8 turnovers per game average that was third-fewest in the NBA.
But the playoffs have been a different story with the Celtics ranked 13th out of the 16 playoff teams committing 15.4 turnovers per game. And of the eight teams still remaining, only Philadelphia and Houston commit more turnovers than the C's.
Milwaukee was among the top teams defensively in the NBA in the regular season, so it’s no surprise that they have given the Celtics’ offense problems. But a sizeable chunk of the mistakes they've made are of the unforced variety, something they can’t afford to do more of in the coming games of this series if they have any hopes of turning it around.
BETTER TRANSITION DEFENSE
Boston knew coming into this series that its transition defense would be a major factor, win or lose. Milwaukee came into the playoffs averaging a league-low 11.0 fast-break points allowed per game, while scoring 17.7, which ranked sixth in the NBA.
Meanwhile, the Celtics' defense allowed 13.2 fast break points in the regular season which ranked 11th in the NBA.
In the first three games of this series, the Celtics have allowed the Bucks an average of 23 fast-break points - a number the C's have to cut down on to give them the best shot possible of evening up this series whose momentum is without question now in favor of the Bucks.
As mentioned earlier, the bench had a rough go of things in Game 3, scoring just 16 points compared to Milwaukee’s second unit tallying 42.
The key to Boston’s second unit success is Hayward.
He is the best playmaker and arguably the best scoring threat on the second unit, so it’s important for him to impact the game in both of those areas in order to truly make his presence felt.
In Game 3, he finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists which on the surface looks like he had a good game.
But the eye test says otherwise.
Hayward missed six of his eight shot attempts from the field, with a sizeable amount of his point total coming after the game was out of hand.
“I feel like we got some great looks,” Hayward said. “We’re not going to knock all of them down. We have to do a better job of making reads, especially at the rim.”