You knew it was inevitable.
After the heavily favored Milwaukee Bucks were thoroughly trounced by the Boston Celtics 112-90 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal playoff game on Sunday, you knew Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer would address the officiating.
Never mind the Bucks’ defense was deplorable. Never mind the Bucks had no answer to Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving. Never mind the Bucks were awful with their 3-point shooting. And never mind Budenholzer’s game-plan was suspect, a game plan that failed to fully utilize the talents of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While Budenholzer didn’t blatantly call out the zebras — the Bucks veteran coach knows better than to do that and incur a hefty fine from the league office – he nevertheless got in a subtle shot over what he perceived was a dearth of calls in the Bucks’ favor. Said Budenholzer: “We didn’t get many calls on drives.’’
True. There were a few times where Antetokounmpo went to the basket and didn’t draw a foul. But the same could be said of the Celtics. In fact, if anyone wanted to whine about the officiating in Game 1, it should have been Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens could point out how Irving might have scored 40 points if the officials would have conscientiously called multiple fouls on veteran backup guard George Hill. The latter pushed, grabbed and bodied Irving virtually every time he guarded him.
And Stevens could have easily pointed to the stat sheet, which told the real story, which showed the disparity in foul calls, which showed a huge disparity in fouls calls … favoring the Bucks.
The Bucks had 24 free throw attempts.
The Celtics had a mere eight.
Give Budenholzer credit for planting the officiating seed for Game 2, even though his remark was anything but the truth.
Let it fly … not
The Bucks’ calling card during their league-best 60-win regular season was their efficient 3-point shooting.
The Celtics were obviously aware of that.
Stevens and his staff devised a splendid defensive strategy that gave the Bucks few good looks from beyond the arc. Three Bucks’ starters – Brook Lopez (1-for-4), Sterling Brown (1-4) and Eric Bledsoe (0-4) – were a combined 2 of 10 on 3-pointers.
Two of the Bucks’ key reserves were even worse: Pat Connaughton was a dreadful 1-for-7 from 3-point range and Ersan Ilyasova misfired on all five of his 3-point attempts.
Celtics’ D was A+
Not only did the Celtics defend the 3 well in Game 1, they made life miserable for the Bucks inside.
Each of the Celtics’ three starting frontcourt players – Al Horford Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris – had three blocked shots. The Celtics finished with 11 rejections.
And the Bucks?
They had just two blocked shots.
Losing Game 1 was a blow for the top seed Bucks, who have now lost the homecourt advantage, but it was hardly the death knell. A team that loses Game 1 still has a .479 chance (69-75) of winning a best of seven series. Now, if the Bucks lose Game 2, it’s a whole different story. According to oddsshark.com, only 20 teams in 282 best-of-seven games series have overcome 0-2 deficits to win the series– a paltry seven percent. … Celtics Nation won’t be happy to read this: Tony Brothers will be officiating Game 2. Brothers will be the referee, while Marc Davis will be the crew chief and Tom Washington will be the umpire. … Oh, by the way, despite their Game 1 drubbing, the Bucks are 7.5 point favorites to win Game 2
–– Photo by Bill Tennessen