The Celtics didn’t mess around in Game 2, taking care of the Bucks early, with a final score of 120-106. Here are three takeaways from a matchup between an unexpectedly bad roster and an unexpectedly good one:
Where Were You for The Jaylen Brown Game?
In Game 1, Al Horford slid into Kyrie Irving’s scoring role for Boston. But with one look at Al’s averages—numbers that Charles Barkley said would’ve forced him into retirement in his era—Boston’s need for another primary offensive threat was obvious.
Jaylen Brown needed less than one quarter of Game 2 to become the guy. Where were you when he went from boy to man with the left?
Brown finished with a new playoff career-high (30 points) after doing so in the series opener (20 points) two days prior. He became the youngest C to drop 30 in the postseason—add another point to the Danny Ainge–drafts-well score. A 21-year-old asserting himself as the first option in a playoff game isn’t something you’d expect to see anywhere east of Utah. But for Boston, this is the best-case scenario. Horford doesn’t have enough of a scorer’s mentality, Terry Rozier has too much of a scorer’s mentality for his percentages, Marcus Morris isn’t on that level, and Aron Baynes is … self-explanatory. Brown is no Irving in the lane—no one is—but finished well inside to complement his threat from outside.
This series could be Brown’s official coming out party if he brings that same aggression and confidence throughout. Over the summer, Brown made it clear that he wanted a bigger role this season. With Boston down two superstars and one essential role player, it’s his for the taking.
Eric Bledsoe Still Doesn’t Wanna Be Here
I’m no Joe Prunty, but it might be a bad sign when your starting point guard gets outplayed by Shane Larkin. Bledsoe should’ve entered the game with a vendetta after Rozier gave his ankles a midlife crisis in Game 1—
—but that frustration was channeled in the wrong way. Bledsoe was T’d up early and ended with less effect on the game than John Henson. With the utmost respect to my Louisville son Scary Terry, a backup point guard with a streaky shot should not have the advantage over Bledsoe. If Boston’s second-unit backcourt is more consistent than Milwaukee’s one veteran starter, the Celtics should get their brooms out.
Middleton in the Middle
Remember Middleton’s miraculous game-winner with 0.5 seconds left that pushed the opener into overtime? He was the wrong kind of late-game shot-maker in Game 2. He didn’t attempt a field goal until halfway through the second quarter! Considering Bledsoe’s weak first game, expecting much out of anyone other than Middleton (and Giannis, which goes without saying) is unrealistic. Middleton was the Bucks’ second-leading scorer this season after Giannis; who is the answer here if he isn’t? Matthew Dellavedova? Is that what the Bucks have come to? Giannis will always come through. Middleton as a strong second isn’t Milwaukee’s best chance at the series—he’s the Bucks’ only chance.
Middleton shot well in Game 2, going 10-for-14 from the field and hitting four from distance. But therein lies the problem: That’s six less than the 20 he attempted in Game 1, when he dropped 31 points. Middleton has shown a solid deep stroke so far in the playoffs—the Bucks’ most damning offensive weakness—but they’ll only go in if he takes them.