The Bucks made sure of that by taking care of business on their home floor and evening the series with a 104-102 win in Game 4 on Sunday night.
While the Celtics’ young core responded with a better effort than the dismal output they had in the Game 3 blowout, Milwaukee built up enough of a cushion to fend off a second-half surge.
The Celtics began the contest with much more energy than they did in Game 3, setting a physical tone on defence while being the aggressors on the other end.
But while their renewed energy resulted in a variety of good looks, they couldn’t capitalise by converting makeable shots.
As they failed to create distance on Milwaukee, the Bucks began to settle into the same type of rhythm they had in Game 3 and locked down defensively.
When Milwaukee have been fully engaged on defence in the series, trying to score has been like trying to draw blood from a stone for Boston. They’ve had to work hard over and over just to generate an open shot, especially with Terry Rozier massively in a slump since the series shifted cities.
Rozier’s success – or lack of – has been critical in the series. As Boston’s lead ball-handler, he has the pressure of creating shots and providing scoring whenever he’s on the floor. He once again shot horribly in the first half, aligning with the Celtics’ struggles, before hitting a pair of 3s after the intermission.
From @ESPNStatsInfo:— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 22, 2018
The Bucks contested 40 of 43 shots faced in the first half, including seven blocked shots. Celtics shot 24% in paint.
The Celtics scored 2 points on uncontested shots. The Buck had 26 (11 of 13 FG).
The young duo finally appeared to get their feet under them and handled the playoff intensity with aplomb, which will be a promising development for the Celtics when they return home for Game 5.
However, outside of them, Boston had few answers on the offensive end, making their success – like Rozier’s – essential to advancing to the next round.
For the Bucks, it will be interesting to see if they carry the same defensive energy over to Boston, where they were often out of sorts in the first two games.
Milwaukee’s bench stepped up in a major way at home, which is usually the case in the playoffs.
Both these teams are young, so home court could end up making all the difference.
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