For the first time all season, the Milwaukee Bucks are in a must-win situation. The NBA’s overall No. 1 seed suffered a beatdown at the hands of the Boston Celtics in Game 1, falling behind 0-1 in the series. Giannis Antetokounmpo produced 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in the 112-90 loss. In other words, Antetokounmpo was a non factor. Yet, that can all change on Tuesday night.
The first thing Antetokounmpo can do is get in the paint before receiving the ball. If Game 1 was any indication, the Celtics aren’t planning to let Antetokounmpo have free sprints to the rim in the half court offense. Case in point, he made 7 of 21 shots in the first game. Three of those made field goals were from 3-point range. It’s nice to make some 3-pointers, but that’s not the game plan for the Bucks. Furthermore, a steady diet of Antetokounmpo 3-pointers won’t concern the Celtics at all. Therefore, he better learn how to post up immediately.
Can the Bucks let their point guard initiate the offense? Eric Bledsoe needs to play like he’s not scared of Terry. If so, they will be able to play inside-out. For example, if Antetokounmpo catches the ball on the block, the Celtics will have to make a decision on whether to double team or not. If they play one-on-one, he should be able to go to work in the paint. We are talking about jump hooks, drop steps and power moves off of one dribble. Not only will Antetokounmpo be closer to the basket, the adjustment will alter the Celtics’ defense in Game 2.
However, if Antetokounmpo doesn’t have the ability to post up regularly the Bucks may be in trouble. Yet, they have other options to exploit the matchups in Game 2. Brook Lopez was 1 of 5 from the field in Game 1. He was 1 of 4 from 3-point range. It’s nice that Lopez has found a niche hanging around the 3-point line, but he needs to also get in the paint on the offensive side of the ball. Lopez has been able to devastate opponents with deft post moves.
When the Bucks are winning 60 games and sweeping the Detroit Pistons it’s fine to see Lopez on the perimeter. When they get dominated by the Celtics in Game 1, Lopez contributing 3 points and 3 rebounds is not going to fly. This is especially true when the Bucks shoot 13 of 39 from 3-point range.
Naturally, people tend to look at the makes. However, going 13 of 39 means the Bucks missed 26 3-point shots. They only had seven offensive rebounds in the entire game. Now, let’s see if analytics does that math. Furthermore, the Bucks attempted 39 3-pointers and only scored 90 points.
Here’s the big question- are you trying to shoot 3-pointers? Or, are you trying to win? The Bucks must diversify their game to win this series. That diversity must start tonight. Otherwise, they may enter Game 3 in Boston with an 0-2 hole. Antetokounmpo can’t worry about doing the eurostep when the Celtics are guarding it. He must learn to have better balance on his shots right now. If not, the uproar will get deafening.