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Bucks Will Need More From Bledsoe in Game 2

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Streak Over, Now It’s Go Time

The Bucks swept the Pistons in round one of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, clinching their first playoff series win since 2001. They won all four games by an average of almost 24 points per game. Now, they face the Boston Celtics in a rematch of last years first round matchup. They took the Celtics to seven games, giving them a serious run for their money. This year, the Celtics have a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and the Bucks have a new coaching staff and a revamped roster. It’s not a secret that Eric Bledsoe struggled mightily last season matched up against Terry Rozier for most of the series, ultimately becoming part of the reason the Bucks lost that series. We can expect him to be out for blood and to prove last season was just a fluke.

Bledsoe had only been with the team for a few months prior to facing the Celtics in the first round last season. He was still creating chemistry with his teammates and getting used to how the offense ran and how the defense was structured. Additionally, the team fired head coach Jason Kidd and named Joe Prunty interim head coach. Going through a coaching change mid-season is always tough for a player, but being a point guard in a system that’s new to him, Bledsoe struggled into the postseason.

What Happened?

Even without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, that Celtics team was deep enough to find suitable replacements. Rozier stepped in for Irving, and Jaylen Brown for Hayward. The key matchup in the series ended up being Bledsoe and Rozier. Rozier averaged 18 points and seven assists per game during the series, compared to Bledsoe’s 14 points and four assists per game. It seemed like every possession Rozier was able to create something for himself or his teammates with Bledsoe on him.

One specific play that comes to mind is the final seconds of game one. Rozier called an isolation, and used a crossover move to shake off Bledsoe and stepped back and hit a three.

The video shows the play, and as you can see, Bledsoe didn’t even attempt to contest that open three after getting crossed up. At such a crucial time in the game, I’d at least expect some effort to close out on the shooter. That kind of effort is an example of how much Bledsoe struggled throughout the series.

I can’t talk about this series and not talk about the bad blood between Rozier and Bledsoe. It was a physical matchup throughout all seven games. After game two, Bledsoe was asked about Rozier, and he replied asking who he was. That appeared to be a response to Rozier calling him Drew Bledsoe. There was also a scuffle during game five that just came down to Bledsoe’s frustration. They were down 13 at the time and Bledsoe just shoved Rozier, igniting the scuffle. For the shove, Bledsoe got himself a flagrant foul, and Rozier got a technical for grabbing him during a dead ball.

Game Seven, 2018

Game seven was a little bit of a different story compared to the rest of the series. The Bucks lost 112-96, but a key reason being that the bench only scored 12 points. Bledsoe was phenomenal on offense, scoring 23 points on 9-12 shooting. Bledsoe, Middleton and Giannis combined for 77 of the Bucks 96 points in that game. The star power was there, but there didn’t seem to be any power anywhere else.

While Bledsoe scored the ball well, his defense was subpar. He allowed Terry Rozier to score 26 points on 10-16 shooting overall and 5-8 from three. Rozier had nine assists and 6 boards in addition to that, showing he could play an all-around game when the Celtics needed it most. He caused problems the entire series, and earned himself the nickname “Scary Terry.”

Game One, 2019

The first half was not kind to Bledsoe and the Bucks. Bledsoe was 0-3 from the field for three points, all from the line. The team is picking up the slack though, as Middleton and Mirotic caught fire from the three point line, keeping the Bucks within two points at the halftime buzzer. Giannis struggled as well, shooting only 2-7 from the field.

The second half fared much worse for them, as they finished shooting just under 35% and lost 112-90. Bledsoe finished 1-5 with six points in 25 minutes. He didn’t exactly start redeeming himself today, but we as Bucks fans can fully expect a bounce back in game two, and for the rest of the series.

Redemption Time

This season under Coach Bud, Bledsoe flourished. He became more comfortable with his teammates and instantly looked more comfortable running point guard. Then again, everybody looked more comfortable on the court in Coach Bud’s systems. The Bucks won the season series 2-1 against the Celtics, and are hoping to win the playoff season series now. If that’s gonna happen, Bledsoe needs to redeem himself.

You can expect Bledsoe to fight hard for the rest of the series. He’ll be up against Kyrie in addition to Scary Terry at times, so he’ll need to be on top of his game. One good thing, though, is that Bledsoe held Kyrie to 39% shooting in the three games they played against each other this season. The playoffs are a different game, but if he can continue to play tough defense like he has all season, he’ll earn his redemption.

The Bucks need Bledsoe to play like he has all season if they want to survive a seven game series with the Celtics. Brad Stevens coaches a young group of guys, but these guys are gritty– and they’re determined to continue the winning ways of the Celtics.

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