5 takeaways from Celtics' series-tying Game 2 rout over Bucks - bdsthanhhoavn.com

5 takeaways from Celtics’ series-tying Game 2 rout over Bucks

Grant Williams was up for the challenge of guarding the reigning Finals MVP in Game 2.

Celtics vs. Bucks: Complete series coverage

BOSTON — The Celtics held the Bucks to 86 points without the Kia Defensive Player of the Year. That was the essence of Game 2, but not the complete story in this Eastern Conference semifinal series that’s now tied at one game apiece and smells like it’s going six or seven games. Here’s five takeaways from Tuesday:


1. Boston fans shouldn’t take this guy for Grant-ted

Maybe in some ways it was best that this happened while Marcus Smart sat with a thigh contusion. It allowed folks to see how effective the Celtics are, even without Smart, and put a flashlight mainly on Grant Williams.

The 22nd overall pick of the 2019 Draft is powerful and built low to the ground, boasting enough tenacity and strength to deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the post despite giving up height (four inches) and length. Williams dug his sneakers in and simply didn’t move once Giannis tried to back him down in the first half, when Giannis missed 9 of his first 10 shots.

“I view it as guarding him on an island where it’s just you and him,” Williams said.

The third-year forward is one of those rotational players who typically impacts games in an under-the-radar way, but Tuesday he was squarely in the showcase. Hard-working and clever, he has developed into a reliable 3-point shooter, where he’ll mostly try from the corners.

And so: In addition to the defense he supplied, Williams added 21 points, making 6 of 9 from deep in what was his finest postseason performance. He wasn’t the best player on the floor for Boston but, for four quarters, the most consistent.

By the way, with three days off before Game 3 (Saturday, 3:30 ET, ABC) , Smart should be good to go.

“We know when a guy goes down,” Williams said, “we’re going to have his back.”


2. More about that Celtics’ D

There’s also the other Williams of course, Robert, the club’s best rim protector and perhaps a future DPOY candidate himself. He provided a layer against Giannis, as did Al Horford, with sneaky good defense by using smarts to steer clear of foul trouble.

Obviously, Tatum and Brown are solid perimeter and man-to-man defenders, and so the Celtics have options and strategies to use against Giannis. In two games, the Celtics have stripped Giannis of his efficiency; he shot 11-for-37 through the first six quarters of this series.

Game Recap: Celtics 109, Bucks 86

The Celtics defeated the Bucks in Game 2, 109-86.

Overall, the Celtics have been tremendous as a team defense since January, when their season flipped, and when they rated high on just about every defensive metric. In the first round, they put the cuffs on Kevin Durant and the Nets. This round, the challenge is a two-time MVP, and Giannis didn’t hurt them Tuesday. They’re on an epic postseason run from a defensive standpoint, but you knew this. Tuesday was just more evidence.


3. Make or miss league

Aside from defense, this Boston win was decided by 3-point shooting. The Celtics made 20 shots from deep, the Bucks just three. The Celtics shot 46.5%, the Bucks 16.7%. Yes, defense perhaps played a role in that, but open looks were made (by Boston) and missed (by Milwaukee) as well. Also, the Bucks only took 18 attempts from beyond the arc (the lowest of the Mike Budenholzer coaching era) to Boston’s 43.

What was particularly noticeable was Boston’s ball movement. On more than a dozen possessions, the ball touched multiple hands and the Celtics were extremely patient while finding the right shooter at the right spot, even if the process came tantalizingly close to a shot-clock violation. The Celtics had that much confidence in their ability to whisk the ball around the perimeter enough to catch the Bucks off-guard.

“You pass up a good shot to get a great shot,” Tatum summed up.

Jaylen Brown set the tone and did much of his damage in the first half (when he scored 25 points and went five-for-five from deep) and everyone else fell in line in the second half.


4. Middleton … maybe?

There’s no official word on the availability of Khris Middleton, who hasn’t played since April 20 with an MCL sprain. The unofficial news is not too promising. Middleton has yet to resume practice; he was originally projected to miss two weeks which, if that stays true, would put him back on the floor in a few days.

In any event, with the Bucks playing against the top defensive team in the league and coming off a Game 2 in which they shot just 16.7% from deep, there’s an urgency to replace his scoring and court presence. This was evident in the first half Tuesday when Giannis missed 9 of his first 10 shots and finished with just five points in the half.

Can the Bucks get past the Celtics without Khris Middleton?

Milwaukee lacked a secondary source of offense other than Jrue Holiday. The others are mainly 3-point shooters and none had their rhythm. Brook Lopez was in foul trouble and took only two shots, and Grayson Allen, who has played well this season, had just four. Middleton could make all the difference between the Bucks defending their championship and never getting the chance.


5. Danny Ainge didn’t leave the cupboard bare

One of the people most responsible for building the Celtics into a contender wasn’t even at TD Garden Tuesday. Actually, he’s thousands of miles away, trying to do the same for the Jazz, where he’s now running the show.

Ainge took some hits for what he did, and didn’t do in Boston, especially his last few years as team president, and particularly for the two All-Star guards he fetched who fizzled: Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. But the 2021-22 Celtics are very much an Ainge Production, and it goes beyond the gifts he received (Tatum and Brown) from what’s known as the Brooklyn Heist when he swapped old Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for picks. Ainge also drafted both of the Williamses, and Smart, and essentially laid the foundation for this crew

Wait, it gets better: Ainge rolled the dice and handed an extension to Robert Williams (before he developed) which is now very team-friendly, and another team-friendly deal to Smart; both of those deals run for four more years.

To recap: Boston is set from a talent and a salary cap standpoint. Their core players are in their prime and safely under contract. If the Celtics win the title, somebody should sneak a ring, or at least show some respect, to the architect.

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