Yes the 0-2 start is depressing, but there are significant reasons for hope…
Seemingly aware of the narrative going into the series, Bucks players said all the right things in regards to respecting their opponents and staying prepared despite the appreciable gap in talent between the teams. While a good showcase in media savvy, this stated attitude hasn’t borne itself out on the court. With the exceptions of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the team (including coaches) should be mostly embarrassed by what they’ve shown.
The Bucks remain totally baffled by a simple big-to-wing hand-off action to get Brown, Tatum, and Morris open threes, and the chessmaster is letting it fly to the tune of 41% on almost 9 three point attempts per game. I wrote in my preview about how this rudimentary action gave the Bucks problems in the final regular season matchup, yet they’ve done little to account for this staple of the Boston offense. Terry Rozier is cooking Bledsoe off the dribble and blowing by Henson in the lane to sport a Morey-tastic shot profile with only two of his fourteen attempts Tuesday coming between the paint and the three-point line. As has been well-documented over the past couple of days, the Celtics’ multi-screen perimeter sets have given Milwaukee fits.
Joe Prunty is putting on a clinic for panic coaching when it comes to rotations, in-game adjustments, and just everything in general. He continues to front post-ups (even when another big is guarding) which will invite one of the following disasters: the wing ball-handler will use the front as a pick and waltz along the baseline for a layup or dump-off for the weak-side big, the wing will throw it over the top and force help which leads to an easy Horford/Monroe pass to the open man, or the same pass will be made but the help will be too late and the big will have an easy layup. Someone should tell him that Boston ranked in the 20th percentile for post-ups during the regular season for a paltry offensive rating of 82.
As far as rotations go, Prunty plays into Stevens’ hands by coordinating his rest with that of the Celtics’ better players and by simply playing the wrong guys at the wrong times. Keep it simple, stupid! Play the good lineups more and the bad lineups less! Our three most played lineups are all big net positives while the three most frequent Celtics groups have just one positive number. More Brogdon and Brown, even less Parker, and above all MORE STARTERS! I know what you’re thinking, but despite the eye test the Bucks have rated really well when Bledsoe plays in this series. EKG should all be averaging around 40 minutes a game, so it’s time to up Bledsoe’s minutes.
So even with all the negatives, the marginal changes necessary to correct a lot of them give cause for optimism.
One thing I would like to see instead of the early Brogdon-Parker sub for Giannis-Snell is replacing Giannis with Brown, in part because Marcus Morris typically enters the game at this juncture as well. Let me explain. The Bucks would slide Middleton to power forward where he has been very effective defending Morris over the course of the year—he’s held Morris to 2/10 in the regular season and 3/8 in Game 1—and allow the quicker Sterling Brown to defend Jaylen Brown (Jaylen is shooting 13/24 against Middleton in the series). Having Jabari enter instead gives us two proven unfavorable matchups on the wing with Parker-Morris and Middleton-Brown. It’s no wonder that subbing Morris for Baynes yields a lineup that’s decimated the Bucks so far.
Ideally this restricts Parker’s minutes to times when neither Jaylen Brown nor Marcus Morris are on the court so he can avoid being exposed as he has been thus far (if this eliminates his minutes entirely, oh well).
Bad shooting luck has also struck the Bucks hard so far this series. Rozier, Morris, and Brown are shooting an absurd combined 62% on pull-up threes with 6.5 attempts a game versus 36% on 3.3 attempts per game in the regular season. These numbers are ridiculous and (hopefully) unsustainable. Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell have thrown up a fat goose egg on a combined 4 catch-and-shoot three point attempts per game so far despite each shooting around 40% on more of those chances during the regular season. Look for some regression to the mean during the Bucks two home games, and remember that shooting more in line with season averages likely means we’d be heading home after a road split.
Bucks Down 0-2 vs Celtics, But Theres Hope!
The early signs have been disastrous, but all is not lost. Although it’s been an ugly start, some small adjustments, a tighter rotation, and a pendulum swing of luck in our favor should even out what’s been about as maddening a two game stretch as you could imagine.
By: Daniel Gaenslen