BOSTON (CBS) -- Perhaps this is just a tad bit overdramatic, but the Celtics' season comes down to Tuesday night. They simply cannot head to Milwaukee in a 2-0 series hole to the Bucks and expect to win the series.
The good news is that Boston doesn't have to reinvent the wheel after Sunday's Game 1 defeat. The Celtics really just need to do a few things differently -- or much, much better -- to turn things around Tuesday night.
UPDATE: It will be a lot harder for Boston with Marcus Smart ruled out with a right quad contusion.
The Celtics did not look like the same team that dominated the second half of the regular season on Sunday, reverting back to all the bad habits that drove everyone crazy over the season's opening months. A little more discipline, some more ball movement, and a lot more pushback, and the Celtics should be able to even things up at TD Garden on Tuesday. Here are some easy ways to assure they walk off their home floor with a Game 2 win.
Take Better Shots
It's easy to say that the Celtics took too many threes in Game 1. They heaved 50 shots from downtown, and hit 18 of them, which really isn't that bad. But it's the kind of threes they heaved that was the issue.
Too many of Boston's shots were contested looks from the wing, and a handful of them came with plenty of time left on the clock for the C's to go hunting for a better look. Another pass or a drive into the paint could have led to a better shot for someone else, but the Celtics abandoned that, likely because of Milwaukee's giants in the paint. They were instead goaded into taking wing threes, where they hit just eight of their 28 looks. For comparison's sake, the Celtics were 6-for-9 on their corner threes in Game 1.
"We had a lot of opportunities to attack the basket and get some easy baskets inside, some paint points, but we settled for too many contested threes," head coach Ime Udoka said Monday. "I liked a lot of the looks we got, the wide open ones, but there were opportunities to penetrate and kick and draw some guys in."
Grant Williams (2-for-4) and Derrick White (2-for-3) where Boston's best three-point shooters on Sunday. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford were a combined 12-for-33 from behind the arc.
With some more ball movement, and maybe a few more drives into those Milwaukee bigs, the Celtics can get some better looks from outside in Game 2.
Get Jaylen Comfortable
Brown was absolutely feeling it throughout the first round. You could see his confidence in everything he did, especially those silky smooth drives to the bucket in crunch time. Though he shot just 21 percent from three for the series, he hit 50 percent of his attempts overall. That's how good he was at going to the hoop.
He scored just two points at the rim in Game 1, putting back a Grant Williams missed three late in the first quarter. That was it.
Maybe he was feeling the hamstring injury that he aggravated when closing out the Nets. It was likely more to do with the forest the Bucks can set up under the basket. But it would be in Boston's best interest to get Brown an easy look at the bucket early Tuesday night, just to get him in the Round 1 mindset that worked so well. It will be a lot tougher with the Bucks defense, but Brown can make it a lot tougher on Milwaukee with a little more aggression.
Win Non-Giannis Minutes
As we saw Sunday, Giannis Antetokounmpo can dominate a game without being a dominant scorer. He's become an elite passer, and with everyone on the Bucks roster capable of knocking down a three, he can easily rack up the assists when he drives to the hole and kicks it out. The Celtics actually played pretty solid defense on Giannis on Sunday, holding him to 9-for-25 from the field, but he still torched the Boston defense with a game-high 12 assists.
He does it all, and there is not much any defense in the NBA can do about it. So that is why it's important for the Celtics to win every minute that Giannis is off the floor. They did so in his first four stints on the bench Sunday, including a key stretch in the third quarter when Boston chipped three points off the Milwaukee lead to pull within six, 68-62. He checked back in and quickly blocked Tatum and added a layup before picking up his fourth foul at the 3:37 mark.
That was Boston's best chance to really make a run and get back into the game. But instead of cutting into Milwaukee's lead over the final minutes of the third in which Giannis sat, they let the Bucks add two points to their advantage.
The Celtics cannot waste any minute in which Giannis is not on the floor. They need to win those minutes at all costs.
Everyone knew coming into the series that the Bucks were going to give the Celtics a lot more resistance, and a lot more physicality, than the Nets in Round 1. Boston did not look prepared for it at any point on Sunday.
The Celtics looked lost when drives were cut off by Milwaukee's giants. Tatum had no answer defensively and gave little resistance to the punishment that Giannis threw at him whenever he had the ball. The Celtics rarely pushed back as the Bucks bullied their way to a double digit lead in the second half.
They knew this was going to be a battle. They knew the bruises were going to pile up. On Tuesday night, they should be responsible for a few of those bruises rather than just icing them down on the bench.
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