The Bucks are in a lot of trouble if they don’t adjust.
Much of the focus after the Boston Celtics’ blow-out win over the Bucks was on how Al Horford shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo and rightfully so. However, what the Celtics did on the offensive side of the floor was just as impressive.
The Bucks were first in the NBA in terms of defensive rating and their schematic changes from last year have been an underrated reason for their enormous turnaround. So why were the Celtics able to hang 112 points on them with only 5 points coming from the charity stripe?
The Bucks are designed to be a modern NBA masterpiece on both ends of the floor, so Mike Budenholzer has built their defense on 3 main pillars:
- Paint protection
- Not allowing corner threes (extremely popular kick out spot)
- Do not send opposing teams to the free-throw line.
The Celtics are a nightmare of a match up for the Bucks for a number of reasons, but arguably the most important reason is that they don’t do any of the things listed. The analytical revolution across the NBA has eradicated the use of the mid-range jump shot due to its low points-per-shot ratio when compared to its three-point and layup counterparts.
Why this is significant is because the Celtics were not trying to force the Bucks to do anything they weren’t already doing; Brad Stevens simply used it against them. With players like Al Horford and Gordon Hayward who both have a mid-range points-per-shot ratio that contradicts modern NBA conventional wisdom, the Celtics can exploit defenses that are not designed for them. Gordon Hayward shot almost 63% from the floor in Game 1 and this is what his shot chart looks like.
As you can see, Hayward only took one shot at the rim all night and still shot an outstanding percentage.
Al Horford shot 50% from the field in Game 1 and his shot chard looked like this.
Similarly to Hayward, Al only took 3 shots near the rim, missing 2 of them and he still shot 50% from the field.
Obviously the Celtics didn’t have Gordon Hayward nor Kyrie Irving during last year’s playoff run, but the emergence of the Bucks was supposed to offset them being healthy, but the Bucks don’t have anyone to guard Kyrie, in fact, he was the only significant player on the team to regularly take and make shots in the paint.
The Bucks have been adamant in saying they’re going to stick to the strategies that have given them so much success; Giannis was even quoted saying this when asked if the Bucks need to make adjustment going into Game 2: “I think there should be no change at all, why should there be a change after a game that we lost? We should not be the team that makes the adjustment even though we lost the first game ”
If that’s true, as long as the Celtics do not turn the ball over, they will continue to pick apart the Bucks’ defense.