After sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, it seems the Boston Celtics were less than prepared to face a team playing such stout defense as the Milwaukee Bucks did in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against Boston.
But given what the Nets played barely qualifies as such, it’s an understandable result, even if the Celtics did not seem to adjust to the physical style of play the Bucks played until the game was already more or less decided. That physical defense and how it threw Boston out of their game was something veteran big man Al Horford had plenty to say about after the loss on Sunday.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” explained Horford. “They really came out and set the tone.”
“It was one of those games that (the referees) let us play, which was great,” noted the Florida product of the lack of whistles in response to physical play in Game 1.
“I definitely think we took a step back … from the things that (the Bucks) were doing. I felt like we responded at times, but definitely (the physicality) had an impact on the game for sure.”
As to whether Milwaukee’s hands-on approach to defense impacted the kinds of shots Boston took, Horford thought it did.
“They did a really good job getting into our guys, making sure guys weren’t getting any easy looks, and meeting our guys every time at the rim — that was a point of emphasis. Brook (Lopez) did a really good job with that closing in. It’s a reason why they were champs last year, that level defensively that they have, so you have to give them credit.”
“They definitely were the better team tonight,” he added.
And while it seemed that the Celtics were uncharacteristically cold even when shooting good, open looks, it’s undeniable that the team did not adapt well to the increased defensive intensity the Bucks bring to the table.
For Boston to not find themselves in a 0-2 hole heading to Wisconsin, they will need to return the physicality, hit their open shots, and get creative with their responses to how the Bucks adjust.
Solid early play in the game suggests it is…