Celtics Lead

Boston’s Offense Must Be Flawless Against Milwaukee

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Despite one roller-coaster of a regular season, the Boston Celtics cruised through the first round of the NBA playoffs. But their next opponent, top-seeded Milwaukee, is an entirely different beast. Led by MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks boast a lineup with star power and formidable depth. Boston’s offense needs to click perfectly to find success against the Association’s stingiest defense.

Boston’s first round sweep inspired much of the fanbase. But the Indiana Pacers were a much weaker team compared to the other powers of the Eastern Conference. Still, the well-rounded success of many Celtics provides optimism heading into the second round. At the same time, the Indiana series pointed out many correctable flaws on the offensive end.

Wings Must Stay Hot

The Celtics’ key trio of wing players — Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown — wowed against the Pacers. All managed to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, with Tatum even crossing the 50 percent mark. Additionally, Brown, Tatum and Hayward were the second, third, and fourth-leading rebounders (respectively) on the team, behind only Al Horford. Each player impacted the scoring column in different games as well. Tatum contributed 26 points in Game 2, Brown notched 23 points in Game 3, and Hayward’s 20 helped to seal Game 4. Jaylen Brown’s performance in particular was previewed as critical for the first round, and he did not disappoint.

That trio needs to continue to get buckets against Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are an extremely tough defensive duo capable of shutting down their matchups. Hayward, who will likely come off the bench again, needs to be the scoring spark. And when Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum find open chances, they must make the Bucks pay. Kyrie Irving will always put up his fair share of points; it’s the wings that have to follow suit.

Turnover Issues

One glaring problem for Boston in the first round was their sloppiness, especially early in games. Among all 16 playoff teams, the Celtics rank 14th with 16 turnovers per game in the postseason, and also currently hold the worst turnover rate of any squad. That’s a far cry from a team that only turned the ball over 12.8 times in the regular season (good for 3rd in the league).

Jayson Tatum and Al Horford have been the biggest outliers thus far, as they both are averaging nearly a whole giveaway more per game in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Most of Boston’s turnovers have been the result of sloppy passes. Between Eric Bledsoe, Sterling Brown, Khris Middleton and Giannis, Milwaukee features a starting lineup teeming with length. The Bucks also rely heavily on transition offense– 15 percent of their points came via the fast break during the regular season, and that number increased in the first round. The Celtics could afford to make poor decisions against the Pacers, but giving Milwaukee more scoring chances will doom the C’s quickly.

Where is Al Horford?

One Green-Teamer that struggled mightily on offense in Round 1 was the Celtics’ veteran big man. In addition to the previously mentioned turnovers, Horford shot an abysmal 34 percent from the field and just 31 percent from deep. His’s touch in a low-usage role is usually a major strength for both Horford’s versatility and Boston’s offense.

To be fair, Horford did have to go up against one of the league’s premier defenders in Myles Turner. However, it’s crucial that the 32-year-old returns to form in the scoring department. Horford’s pick-and-pop game with Kyrie Irving is one of the most lethal tandems in the NBA.  The combination is devastating when both players are in a rhythm, and it opens up opportunities for Boston’s offense as a whole. If Horford’s three-ball isn’t falling, though, defenders can sag off and watch other players. Forcing the Bucks to be engaged at all times will exhaust them, and then the Celtics can attack and overwhelm their opposition.

Statistics courtesy of NBA Stats and Basketball Reference.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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