Reaction to Game 1 of the Celtics-Bucks Series
The Boston Celtics headed into the series with the Milwaukee Bucks as heavy underdogs. The Celtics season was defined by inner squad turmoil, and an end product only good enough for 49 wins and a fourth place conference finish. On the other hand, the Bucks season was defined by unrelenting success. A 60-win team that led the NBA in a plethora of offensive and defensive statistics. A Milwaukee team featuring the almighty Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led his squad to an easy series sweep against the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs.
Nobody was picking the Boston Celtics to go into the Fiserv Forum and win the first game of the series against Milwaukee.
Yet that is exactly what the Celtics did. NBA games are not decided by the words of the media, or by the lines of Vegas. They are decided in the 82 feet between the opposing baselines, and the Celtics’ seemed like the only team deciding anything Sunday afternoon.
The Boston Celtics won the game 112-90, and were in relative to total control of the contest for the entirety of the 48 minutes.
The biggest part of the Celtics win was Al Horford.
In the simplest collection of words lies the proper articulation of Horford as a player and person. Al Horford is good at basketball. The five-time NBA All-Star is consistent in almost every facet of his game. He’s just plain and simple good. But my god was he incredible against Milwaukee in the first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
I think it’s only fair to first off shout out Tito Horford, Al’s father, for sending the Celtics’ center good vibes from the crowd.
Horford finished the game with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals on 60% shooting from the three-point line and 50% shooting from the field. It’s a fantastic stat line and one made even more impressive by the defense he played on Antetokounmpo for most of the game.
Giannis finished the game with only 22 points on an inefficient 33% from the field. While Horford did a stellar job at playing individual defense on the MVP candidate—it was a team effort by the Celtics.
Head Coach Brad Stevens devised an expert plan to meet Giannis with a horizontal wall of almost three players every time the Bucks’ star got moving in the transition. The plan worked better than what even the Celtics’ coaching staff could have expected.
According to Jared Weiss of the Athletic, it was the first time that Giannis took more than 15 shots inside the arc and made less than 5, as well as his worst career shooting performance when taking at least 20 field goal attempts.
Boston’s defense was one aspect of the win. The play of Kyrie Irving was another. Irving just goes to another plain of play during the playoffs. As the polarizing guard finished with 26 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds in 33 minutes of a play. It’s a playoff career high in assists and Irving looked in total control on the offensive side of the ball for the duration of the game.
The Bucks offensively looked completely out of sorts. With Giannis struggling to such an extent, it clearly threw off the rhythm of everything that Milwaukee was trying to do. Eric Bledsoe looked out of control, Khris Middleton was settling for fade away midrange jump shots and the 7’2 Brook Lopez was bombing deep threes that don’t look like a sustainable model for playoff games.
Paul Pierce declared the series “over” after the game, and while this obviously a premature call of what should be a long series—it certainly looks like Boston has the right game plan to take down the regular season Eastern Conference champions.
Game 2 becomes a must win for the Bucks, and it will be curious to see if the Celtics can continue to lock up Giannis at the same rate.