Bucks Celtics Basketball

Boston needs more production out of Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Milwaukee. Steven Senne/Associated Press

BOSTON — The Celtics couldn’t have asked for much more when it came to their half-court defense. They limited Giannis Antetokounmpo, a dangerous scorer and passes, about as much as possible. The Bucks shot just 41.1% from the field and scored just 101 points Sunday.

Boston’s issues came from its offense – and that spread to its defense. There were some wrinkles the Bucks threw at them that were unexpected like full-court pressure. But Milwaukee’s physicality kept the Celtics from establishing a rhythm.

All the Celtics can do now is adjust, which was the focus of Monday’s practice. Coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics dived into film sessions, pinpointing some of the reasons they scored just 89 points. And they’ll look to have at least a few tricks to keep the Bucks off-balance.

“We know we can get those shots any time and get them wide open, so our point today was open 3s,” Udoka said Monday. “You don’t have to force anything because you will get those based on how they guard but also not getting away from attacking the basket, especially against certain personnel on their part when they are closing out on our drivers.”

The Bucks force teams to take a lot of 3-pointers, but Udoka said there were still opportunities to drive to the bucket. He said the Celtics missed some chances to drop-off right near the bucket, and those misses led to turnovers and eventually fast-break points for the Bucks.

While a lot of the Celtics’ 50 3-point attempts Sunday were open looks, Udoka also pointed out some of them were still contested. That’s where he said they can attack the Bucks’ big men who are closing out on 3-pointers for opportunities at the bucket.

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The Celtics also need to generate easier shots in general. While the Bucks and Celtics both feature imposing defenses, Milwaukee got 28 fast-break points and Boston was limited to just six. It was a similar game in the half-court Sunday, but the Bucks made less mistakes and limited the Celtics’ transition chances.

“Making the right plays is key because of how they guard,” Udoka said. “If we find that pocket, everything else is open behind it. What they’ve been great at this year is growing in that area, and it’s just simply sometimes they are going to load up on you and let everyone else be a recipient of your attention.”

The Celtics will also try to utilize Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum differently after they both struggled in Game 1. As expected, the Bucks weren’t going to allow the Celtics’ best players to beat them, but Udoka said they can still make some adjustments to make their lives easier.

That’s where the right decision and reads come in for the pair. Tatum picked apart the Nets last series when they loaded up against him, but he was eventually able to get his. Tatum knocked down a few 3-pointers to punish the Bucks on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough because he couldn’t get any clean looks near the rim.

Udoka said Brown didn’t feel any restrictions because of the hamstring tightness he had been feeling for the past week. Brown did get some open looks, but they didn’t go down, and when he tried to get to the bucket, he turned the ball over seven times.

“What we saw in the half court, the attention that those two would attract is nothing new this year,” Udoka said. “So the way we reacted to it was not our best, obviously. We had opportunities to make them pay for some of the rotations and attention that they draw to those two and then take advantage of that.”

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Sunday was just the first step of what could be a long series between the Celtics and Bucks, so there will be more adjustments in the coming days and weeks.

That’s life in the postseason as each team knows the opposing sets and personnel intimately by the end of a grueling seven games.

Udoka, of course, wouldn’t reveal Boston’s game plan, but the Celtics will make some for Game 2. The execution was an issue for the Celtics, but they can also clean up how they attack the Bucks and a jam-packed paint.

“Had a lot of opportunities to attack the basket and get some easy baskets inside, some paint points, and settled for too many contested 3s,” Udoka said. “Liked a lot of the looks we got, wide open ones, but opportunities to penetrate and kick and draw some guys. And so, shouldn’t have to take any contested 3s in the series because of how they guard.”


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