The Boston Celtics took a nine-point lead into halftime and never let the Milwaukee Bucks have a shot in the second half of a dominating Game 2 win.
After Game 1 of the first round series between the Celtics and Bucks, much of the talk centered around the small things the Bucks could do to swing what was a close game their way in Game 2. If Milwaukee just managed to rebound the ball better and not turn it over so often, they would be able to beat a Celtics roster that struggled to score. As it turns out, that was far from the case.
Early in Game 2, those same Bucks’ struggles appeared again. Boston took advantage of offensive rebounds early, racking up 12 second-chance points in the early part of the first quarter to build a 33-22 lead at the end of the frame.
Milwaukee used a 13-0 run in the second quarter, which included five points from Shabazz Muhammad, to tie the game at 35, but Boston immediately responded with a 7-0 run of its own to take control of the game with a 60-51 halftime lead.
The second half started with a bit of a good sign for the Bucks as Giannis Antetokounmpo drew a foul and went to the free throw line where he went 0-for-2, including an airball on his second attempt. As the Bucks waited for anyone to give Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton help, the Celtics pulled away thanks to Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, who combined for 53 points and nine assists for Boston.
It was Brown who really seemed to put the game out of reach for the Celtics when he took over late in the third quarter with a quick eight-point burst. It started when Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton miscommunicated, allowing Brown to get an open look from deep on the left wing, which he knocked in. He followed that up with an uncontested drive to the paint for a layup and a corner three to put Boston up 14 with just over four minutes left in the third.
Milwaukee pulled within 10 a few times after that, but Brown or Rozier always seemed to find an answer to keep them at bay and give Boston a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
The Bucks have no answers: While the Bucks have the best player on the floor in Antetokounmpo, the biggest advantage in the series is on the sidelines, and it has been clear in the first two games. Joe Prunty searched all night long for answers for Milwaukee, playing all 13 of his available players, with 12 of them checking in before Prunty officially waived the white flag. Throughout the game, it felt as if Prunty was guessing at which combinations might work, leading to some bizarre lineups like one featuring Shabazz Muhammed, John Henson and Antetokounmpo or another with Muhammed and Jabari Parker. Nothing worked, as Milwaukee continued to let Boston get whatever shot they wanted while struggling to space the floor on the offensive end. It never really felt like the Celtics could lose the game after halftime, as Stevens was constantly two steps ahead of Prunty. While it is hard to call a series after two games, this sure feels like it would take a massive Boston collapse for the Bucks to pull the upset.
Terry Rozier is crushing Eric Bledsoe: The Bucks were a trendy upset pick heading into the series, thanks to the play of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. While Antetokounmpo and Middleton have been lights out in the first two games of the series, Bledsoe has been absolutely destroyed by his counterpart, Terry Rozier.
Individually, Rozier has dominated Bledsoe on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has done a great job of losing Bledsoe on screens and knocking down the open looks created. He finished 8-for-14 from the floor on Tuesday, and many of those makes came to end Bucks runs in the first two and a half quarters.
Defensively, Rozier’s size, strength and athleticism have bothered Bledsoe all over the floor. In Game 2 that meant a 5-for-13 shooting performance from the field. Even when Bledsoe got open looks, he didn’t seem comfortable shooting them, which is a testament to how much Rozier is making him work for those shots. Considering how important Bledsoe’s scoring and creation is for Milwaukee, Rozier’s work has put a stranglehold on the Bucks offense when Middleton or Antetokounmpo need to rest.
Jabari Parker shouldn’t play again this series: Parker was an absolute disaster again for Milwaukee on Tuesday night, finishing 0-for-2 from the field with two rebounds in 10 minutes. While single game plus/minus isn’t a great stat, Parke]rs -15 in those 10 minutes felt fair as the Celtics relentlessly attacked him on defense and scored at will. Parker hasn’t exactly been fully engaged in the last bit of the season, and it feels like his time in Milwaukee might be coming to an end after the Bucks are finally eliminated.
If he continues to play like he has in the first two games, by not giving Milwaukee anything on offense or the glass while playing his usual terrible defense, that probably should mean he doesn’t hit the floor at all for the last few games. It is a sad way for his tenure to end but on a Bucks roster, but with enough scoring in Middleton and Antetokounmpo, there just isn’t need for Parker’s empty calorie additions, especially against a team as disciplined and well-executing as the Celtics have been through two games.