The Milwaukee Bucks made some key adjustments and put on a 3-point shooting clinic to bury the Boston Celtics in Game 2.
The 3-point shot has helped elevate the Bucks all season long and, in Game 2, their shooting built like a wave, eventually cresting and washing away the Celtics in a crucial third quarter. The Bucks hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, working to keep pace with Boston. They took the lead in the second, as Khris Middleton caught fire, and collectively hit six 3s.
Coming out of halftime, Milwaukee turned up the intensity, pushing the pace, turning over the Celtics and hitting 6-of-9 3-pointers to push the lead into blow-out territory. Milwaukee lead by 25 going into the fourth turning the final quarter into garbage time. With the series even, both teams can now look to Game 3 and the next round of adjustments.
Things were (a little) easier for Giannis. The Celtics physical defense on him was the story of Game 1, packing the paint and walling off the basket to shut down his drives. Giannis was much more effective in Game 2, finishing with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. However, 13 of those points came at the free throw line and he was still just 5-of-11 in the paint. Getting to the free throw line is an excellent way to keep pressure on the Celtics interior defenders but it’s a slightly more volatile strategy than just dunking on their heads. Getting out quicker in transition helped clear some space for Giannis but things were still cramped in the frontcourt and Boston’s defense was able to keep Giannis off his peak, again.
Man, the Bucks can shoot. The Bucks 39-point third quarter, where they outscored Boston by 21, was powered by their 3-point shooting. It was an extension of the trend that helped keep the game close in the first half. Khris Middleton hit 4-of-6 in the first half. The Bucks hit 6-of-9 in the third quarter and finished the game 20-of-47 from behind the arc. Their ability to find space beyond the arc in so many situations — drive-and-kicks, pushing in transition, off offensive rebounds — is structural and they’ll just keep shooting. In a game they won by 21 points, they finished with a +30 margin in points scored behind the arc. This is what makes the Bucks so dangerous.
Milwaukee’s switching befuddled Boston. The Bucks came out switching almost everything on the perimeter and the change really seemed to throw off Boston’s rhythm, particularly Kyrie Irving. It was a disappointing performance for Irving, hitting just 2-of-9 from outside the paint. But he also went just 2-of-9 in the paint, without a single free throw attempt, driving into a crowded back line and trying to finish over the top of a well-prepared defense. Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward weren’t able to effectively take any of that playmaking load and Boston’s offense just withered, especially in that crucial third quarter.