Jaylen Brown showed up more than three hours early on Tuesday for the Game 2 showdown between the Celtics and the Bucks after hosting one of the worst playoff games of his career to date in Game 1.
The results showed. Brown came out firing and came in 17 points in the first quarter en route to a 30-point evening as the Celtics tied the series against the Bucks with a 109-86 win. Much to the delight of Celtics fans, Brown even sat on Grayson Allen a memorable crossover.
The Celtics weren’t perfect. They held out in the second half, instead of pulling away. They haven’t figured out how to score in the paint against the Bucks’ hyper-aggressive defense yet. They still seem to settle down every now and then.
But many of the worst issues that arose in Game 1 were resolved. Brown and Tatum still weren’t perfect, but they were much better (a combined 20-for-38 from the field and 11-for-20 from three). As a team, the Celtics finished with just 11 turnovers, limiting the Bucks’ transition options. They moved the ball more consistently and created great looks instead of decent ones.
The Celtics have a lot more to figure out, but they have plenty of time to do it – due to the bizarre schedule, there are three days off between Games 2 and 3, and Marcus Smart will likely return.
After dropping Game 1, the Celtics averted disaster. Now they have to figure out a way to take over the series.
2. The Celtics defeated the Bucks 20-3 from a 3-point range, while the Bucks defeated the Celtics 54-24 in the paint. If you take the pictures the Bucks want you to take, you have a very good chance of winning. If you don’t, they can crawl back from a 20-point deficit and make fourth quarter a little more stressful.
The Celtics evened the series, but they need to figure out sustainable ways to beat the Bucks. Much of the discrepancy is inherent in the draft – the Bucks give up three-pointers and the Celtics have clearly chosen to prioritize the three-point defense while Grant Williams and Al Horford Giannis guard Antetokounmpo 1-on-1 – but the Celtics could feel a lot more comfortable if they weren’t so dependent on their jump shots falling.
3. Grant Williams has a lot of room to grow as a player and it’s unclear where his game will go next. Can he become more of a ball handler and attack the catch as opponents approach his now impressive 3-point shot? Can he keep improving his passing, which would open up his game even more? How much better can an already solid defense still be?
One thing we do know, though: 23-year-old Grant Williams is currently a good basketball player and the Celtics would be in trouble without him. On Tuesday, he was impressive as he defended Antetokounmpo again – standing strong against the tough attacks of Antetokounmpo in the paint. He also added 21 points, including shooting 6-for-9 from a 3-point range, and was a key part of opening the paint against the Bucks’ aggressive defense.
The Celtics have some interesting decisions to make next year as Williams is poised to contribute at a high level.
4. Antetokounmpo scored just two points in the first quarter, but he exploded for 18 in the third. He came back into the game after just two minutes into the fourth.
Antetokounmpo is as crucial offensively to his team as Kevin Durant was to the Nets, but Antetokounmpo’s game looks more exhausting – if Durant needs a bucket he can always pull up from a 3-point range. Antetokounmpo has to keep driving and driving incessantly, forcing his way to the edge and pushing through the opponent’s defenses. When the opposing defenders are Horford and Grant Williams, the task becomes a lot harder. The fact that Antetokounmpo still finished with 28 points is testament to the former MVP, but the Celtics can be encouraged by how hard they have made it for arguably the best player in the world.
Later in the evening we have more takeaways.
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