Malcolm Brogdan

Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

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Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton knows what’s at stake so there’s no need to sugarcoat or downplay the significance of tonight’s Game 6 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“Just win or go home,” Middleton said. “You can’t leave nothing on the line.”

Boston will come into tonight’s game with a similar approach, aware that regardless of what happens in Game 6, they will live to see another game at the TD Garden on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. They could play Game 7 against Milwaukee or Game 1 of the second round against Philadelphia.

But the Celtics will tell you the sooner they can put away this Bucks team, the better off they’ll be. 

At this point in the series, there are no true surprises for either team.

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“Fifth time playing each other, you’re gonna know each other’s game pretty well by now,” said Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova. “So it’s definitely some things we can do better, and we’ll execute better in game six.”

Like most playoff series, adjustments have a way of often being the difference between winning and losing. 

Milwaukee struck first by inserting Malcolm Brogdan into the starting lineup from Game 3 on, to replace Tony Snell who has struggled shooting the ball (29.4 percent) most of this series. And a back injury to John Henson afforded more playing time to ex-Celtic Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker, with the latter having dominant performances in Games 3 and 4, but being a non-factor in Boston’s Game 5 win which gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

Boston has since countered with Marcus Smart making his playoff debut this season in Game 5 after being out six weeks with a right thumb injury, while Semi Ojeleye got his first NBA start in Boston’s Game 5 win as well. 

“It made it a little bit easier for us (defensively),” said Jaylen Brown, referring to Ojeleye’s first NBA start. “Because we can switch . . . we’re all the same. That made it a lot easier for us.”

"It’s gonna come down to who owns their space, who wants it the most and who’s gonna fight for it,” Brown said. “All that X’s and O’s and stuff  . . . it’s gonna come down to that (who wants it, fights for it more) at the end of the day.”

Terry Rozier added, “It’s gonna be a dog fight but we look to come out on top.”

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Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON -- The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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Stars, studs and duds: Celtics can't score without Isaiah Thomas

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics can't score without Isaiah Thomas

BOSTON – We all know that when the fourth quarter rolls around, that’s when Isaiah Thomas is at his best for the Boston Celtics. 

As durable as he has proven himself to be, he can’t be on the floor for the entire game. And it’s that time when he’s resting, the Boston Celtics – on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks at least – began reeling which ultimately factored heavily in a 103-100 loss. 

Thomas, who had 32 points to lead all scorers, started the second quarter on the bench with the score tied at 24. By the time he entered the game at the 8:29 mark, the Celtics were down double digits as the Bucks went on a 10-0 run. In the third quarter, Boston was outscored 6-5 when Thomas was on the bench and in the fourth, it was more of the same with Milwaukee outscoring Boston 8-3 when Thomas was not in the game. 

By the end of the night, Boston was +15 (90-75) with Thomas on the floor, and -18 (10-28) when he was on the bench.

Thomas said he has an idea of how to address the team’s scoring lulls when he’s on the bench. 

“Be aggressive; guys can’t second-guess themselves,” Thomas said. “Whoever he calls to get in the game, you gotta be aggressive. And when your shot’s there, you gotta take it. And you have to be aggressive and make plays, especially our guards.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that is an issue for his team. 

“We’ve just got to play to our strengths to the best of our ability,” Stevens said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. We’ll continue to do small tweaks to that until we find the exact right one. But yeah, we have, we have struggled in those moments to score. There’s no question about that.”

Thomas added, “that’s the biggest thing. We have to remain confident in each other. The guys who do go into the game, they have to be confident in themselves. We have to figure out how to be successful at those times. I believe in coach (Brad Stevens). I believe in the rest of the guys on this team. They just have to confidence and make plays; that’s all it comes down to.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s 103-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

STARS

Malcolm Brogdon: He may be in his first NBA season, but this rookie plays with the poise of a seasoned veteran. He had 16 points for the Bucks on 7-for-12 shooting which included a tightly contested jumper with 3.9 seconds to play. In addition to his scoring, Brogdon also had nine assists and four rebounds without committing a single turnover.

Isaiah Thomas: The “little guy,” as Tommy Heinsohn affectionately likes to refer to Thomas as, had another big game for Boston. He led all scorers with 32 points on 9-for-17 shooting while making 5-of-9 3’s to go with five rebounds and four assists with three steals. His five made 3’s gives him 223 for the season which is a franchise single-season record previous held by Antoine Walker (2001-2002 season).

Giannis Antetokounmpo: This wasn’t one of his best games, but there was no way to ignore the impact he made on the game at both ends of the floor. He finished with a team-high 22 points along with nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocked shots. 

STUDS

Khris Middleton: His ability to take advantage of the spacing created by Milwaukee’s ball-handlers dribbling into the paint, led for a very efficient evening for Middleton. He had 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot. 

Marcus Smart: He continues to struggle making shots for Boston, but that hasn’t prevented him from making an impact. Smart finished with his second double-double of the season, tallying 11 points to go with 11 rebounds which tied his career high. 

Greg Monroe: The Celtics had serious problems keeping him from being an effective inside-the-paint target for the Bucks. He had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting along with eight rebounds and three assists.

DUDS

Jaylen Brown: This was a rough night for Brown who only played 13 minutes, 19 seconds against the Bucks. He missed two of his three shots from the field which isn’t that big a deal. But the Celtics were -21 when he was on the floor … in 13-plus minutes.  Ouch!