Celtics score vs. Bucks takeaway: Boston bounces back against Milwaukee, evens series with dominant Game 2 win

The Boston Celtics embarrassed themselves on their home court in Game 1. They made sure that didn’t happen again in Game 2. Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 30 points as the Celtics bounced back with a dominant 109 win -86 over the Bucks on Tuesday night to even the second-round series at one game apiece. Game 3 is Saturday at Milwaukee.

Boston was hot from the start, outscoring Milwaukee 65-40 in the first half. Boston’s scoring came largely from behind the arc as the Celtics made 20 of 43 3-point attempts in the win. The Celtics’ defense made life difficult for the defending champions, who were limited to under 90 points.

The Bucks arrived in Boston on Sunday and handed the Celtics an impressive 101-89 loss in their series opener. In the process, the defending champions stole home court from the No. 2 seed in the East. Boston bounced back with a win at TD Garden, and did so without the services of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat out with a right hamstring contusion. Here are three takeaways from Game 2.

1. The Boston 3 Party

The Celtics attempted 50 3-pointers in Game 1, but it wasn’t by choice. Milwaukee’s defense, already focused on protecting the paint and sacrificing 3-pointers, took things to another level in Game 1 by starting Bobby Portis alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. The idea was to put so much size on the floor that the Celtics would be tempted to shoot nothing but jump shots. They fell for it, and in the process made only 10 2s in the entire game.

Most assumed Boston would try to find ways to take fewer 3-pointers in Game 2, but it didn’t. Instead, the Celtics decided that this time, they would just make all of their 3s. The Celtics scored 65 points in the first half and started the game 11-of-17 from behind the arc. Grant Williams (6), Jaylen Brown (6) and Jayson Tatum (5) made more 3-pointers in the game than the Bucks as a team (3). Boston outscored Milwaukee by 51 points from deep, but what’s more, that quick shot helped the Celtics find easier points in the first half. Milwaukee was so scared of Boston’s shots that their defense finally began to shut the Celtics wide open. Boston retaliated with incredible mid-ball movement to create easy looks that took advantage of Milwaukee’s scattered defense.

The problem for Boston was that they didn’t sustain this high-energy offense for four quarters. The Celtics scored just 44 points in the second half because their offense got lazy. Too often it resulted in a ball handler who drove into traffic, frantically passed it, the energy died and a Celtic took a contested 3-pointer. The first half was proof that Milwaukee has an easier time defending stationary Celtics than moving ones. If Boston can capture what they did in the first half going forward, they can win this series quickly. If he plays the low-energy offense what did he do in the second? Milwaukee can take control of this series at home.

2. The Williams Wall

There aren’t enough superlatives for Grant Williams’ defensive performance in Game 2. There are dozens of plays worth highlighting, but I want to focus on this one specifically. No need to set it up, let’s just take a look:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the nearly 7-foot freight train who won two regular-season MVPs and is the reigning Finals MVP, ran into Williams at full speed … and collapsed. Grant Williams is an absolute brick wall. If Giannis can’t bring his physicality to bear against Boston’s young forward, no one can. The best part? He’s not even the Celtics’ best defensive Williams. Robert Williams III might have won the Defensive Player of the Year award that ultimately went to Marcus Smart if he hadn’t gotten hurt late in the season.

Grant is 23 years old. Robert is 24. They share the frontcourt with Al Horford for now, but if Boston can afford to keep both of them, it will have one of the best and most versatile defensive big men in all of basketball for the foreseeable future, and it turns out that both they have the same last name. Robert has received the most praise all season for his outstanding blocking, but it was Grant’s strength that proved so pivotal in Game 2.

3. Play two different sports

In two games so far in this series, the Celtics have attempted 41 more 3-pointers than the Bucks. Again, some of that is by design. Milwaukee’s defense is designed to allow 3-pointers. But his offense is designed to take them, too. Milwaukee ranked fifth in the NBA by taking 38.4 3s per game in the regular season. Boston took less at 37.1 per game. However, in Game 2, the Celtics made 43 3-pointers and the Bucks only 18.

Those 18 3-point attempts are by far the least of the Mike Budenholzer era in Milwaukee. Under his guidance, the Bucks had never taken fewer than 22 in a game before Game 2. But Boston changed its game plan on defense in a way that took the life out of Milwaukee’s 3-pointers on offense. Instead of doubling down on Antetokounmpo and allowing him to rack up double-digit assists like he did in Game 1, Boston relied on Grant Williams and Al Horford to take him one-on-one. They were very successful. Giannis shot 11 of 27 from the field.

Without having to devote additional resources to it, the Celtics were able to stay home with shooters, and with Khris Middleton gone, the Bucks lacked the shot creation to find their preferred look in other ways. Now it’s up to the Bucks to figure out how they can shoot Boston just like Boston adjusted to them in Game 2.

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