Five takeaways for the Celtics to build on heading into Game 2 vs. Bucks

Share

MILWAUKEE -- For most of this season, listening to Kyrie Irving and his teammates talk about how different things would be in the playoffs sounded like a lot of fiction — believable on many levels but highly improbable in the real world. 

Fast forward to the Celtics after their first five playoff games, all of which ended the same way: a Boston victory. 

Their success has been just as unexpected as the "Avengers: Endgame" movie ending with … never mind, I won’t spoil it for you. 

Simply put, the Celtics are a different team than the one we saw slug their way through a disappointing regular season that ended with them — rather than fighting for the best record in the NBA, which is what many expected — battling just to have home-court advantage in the first round. 

But give them credit; they told us this was coming. 

But like a movie trailer that shows so many of the really cool scenes, we didn’t want to believe the actual show would be better than we thought. 

We were wrong.

“Maybe there was a little bit of foreshadowing throughout the regular season,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving acknowledged. “We were dealing with our ups and downs naturally, but I think that we just have an appreciation for the group that we have. We’ve spent at least two years together now. Everyone is relatively healthy other than (Marcus Smart). We have a good rhythm for the expectations that we have for each other.”

And that is among the biggest takeaways for the Celtics after their Game 1 win over the Bucks. 

Here are five other takeaways that should also bode well for them as they prepare for Tuesday night’s Game 2 matchup. 

BUILD THE (DEFENSIVE) WALL

Boston’s defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo was impressive in Game 1, “limiting” him to 22 points on 21 shot attempts with eight rebounds and just as many turnovers (2) as assists (2). 

But more important was how Boston had its “Do Not Enter” defensive wall in the paint all game long. 

The Bucks were the best team in the East when it came to scoring in the paint during the regular season. Their 53.3 points in the paint ranked third in the league behind only the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers. 

But in Game 1, the Bucks could muster up just 26 points in the paint on 13-for-38 shooting. 

Boston was good in limiting points in the paint during the regular season, ranking fifth in the NBA.

But even by their own lofty standards, what they did in Game 1 was an exceptional performance. 

SCARY TERRY

With a very different role this year heading into the playoffs than last year, there were legitimate concerns as to whether the struggles Terry Rozier experienced in the regular season might leak into the playoffs. 

Rozier was a rock-solid performer for the Celtics in Game 1,  tallying a near double-double off the bench with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three assists before fouling out. The fouling out is important to note because it serves as a reminder of how willing Rozier was to do whatever he needed to do - even if it meant fouling more than he normally does - if it was in the best interest of the team. 

His numbers won’t need to be as good as they were in Game 1 for Boston to still find success in this series. But his approach to the game, that willingness to go all-out regardless of how much or little he might play, was indeed a key takeaway for Boston as the Celtics try to build upon their Game 1 success. 

PLAYMAKIN' GORDON

The one part of Gordon Hayward’s game that seemed to come around quickest, was his playmaking. It has only improved with time as his body now navigates in and out of the paint as well as off the dribble at a much higher, more efficient rate than we saw at the start of the season. 

The Bucks had a lot of trouble guarding Hayward, who consistently found flaws in Milwaukee’s defense and exploited it to Boston’s advantage.

For the game, he had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting while dishing out five assists, which was second on the team behind Kyrie Irving’s game-high 11 assists. 

Hayward’s ability to continue finding that balance between running the offense from the point while still finding spots where he too can score, is a major plus for Boston in this series. 

JAYSON TATUM

There’s no question that Jayson Tatum has to — and will — shoot better than the 2-for-7 performance we saw from him in Game 1. 

But if better shooting has to come at the expense of his defense, the young fella has to stick with the ‘D.’

Because his play at that end of the floor was one of those under-the-radar keys to Boston’s Game 1 win.

Tatum was among the Celtics defenders who had a hand in keeping Khris Middleton from having a Khris Middleton-like game against Boston in Game 1.

After knocking down a pair of shots early in the first quarter, Tatum and the rest of Boston’s defensive unit soon made him a non-factor as he finished with 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting.

Jaylen Brown spent a Celtics-high 27 possessions on Middleton, who shot 3-for-5 against him. Up next was Tatum, who defended Middleton for 19 possessions and limited him to just 1-for-4 shooting from the field. 

That level of defense against one of Milwaukee’s top scorers, coupled with Tatum’s rebounding (six) and blocked shots (3), made for a very strong night for the second-year forward.

And the fact that he could struggle making shots but still play an integral part in the win, speaks to his growth into being more than just a scorer for Boston, but a complete, all-around player. 

BOSTON’S SECOND UNIT

They go by the moniker of B.W.A. - Bench With Attitude - but they were a different kind of B.W.A. on Sunday: Bench Was Awesome. 

It was indeed a three-man show comprised of Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier. 

Hayward’s ability to create favorable matchups for Boston as either a playmaker or scorer, kept the Bucks defense off-balance most of the time he was on the floor. 

And the Bucks got Scary Terry playing at the top of his game. When that happens, he’s getting it done as a defender and a shot-maker. Both were on hand in Game 1, with Rozier finishing just a rebound shy of a double-double (11 points, nine rebounds).

Aron Baynes left the game early with a left ankle injury and did not return. But even in his limited minutes, Baynes’ impact was felt, which you could see with him having a plus/minus of +11 despite playing just under nine minutes. He told NBC Sports Boston that he will play in Game 2 on Tuesday, so Boston’s second unit should be intact enough to where they can have yet another impactful performance. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Contact Us