Milwaukee Bucks: Analyzing Eric Bledsoe vs. Kyrie Irving

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Bledsoe’s shot at redemption

Going into the series, a lot is going to be made of Bledsoe’s redemption opportunity against the Celtics.

In last year’s playoffs, when these two teams met and battled in a hard-fought seven-game series, it’s no secret that Bledsoe did not perform to the best of his ability.

Irving was injured and did not play in the series, and many, including myself, thought the Bucks would then have the advantage at the point guard position with Bledsoe going against Terry Rozier, a backup.

As we all know, that wasn’t the case.

In the first two games, both of which Boston won, Bledsoe was just 9-of-25 from the field for 21 points, had just eight assists, committed six turnovers and got crossed into next week for the game one winner by Rozier.

Rozier, in just those first two games, combined for 46 points on 15-of-29 shooting from the field along with 11 assists and zero turnovers. Pure domination of Bledsoe.

Then there was the whole incident with Bledsoe acting like he didn’t know who Rozier was after the game and Rozier “accidentally” referring to him as Drew Bledsoe.

Overall, it was just an embarrassing series for Bledsoe, who performed well in games three and seven, but still only averaged 13.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.1 turnovers during the series while shooting just 44 percent from the field.

With such an abysmal playoff performance, questions surrounded Bledsoe going into this season about whether he was the future for the Bucks.

You could say that the 2018-19 season was Bledsoe’s redemption tour, and what a tour it’s been so far. Unleashed by coach Budenholzer’s “Let it Fly” offense, Bledsoe attacked the paint more than ever before and became one of the Bucks’ most important players on both offense and defense.

Budenholzer has preached the value that Bledsoe brings to the Bucks with his aggressive on-ball defense and offensive production, and there’s a good reason. When Bledsoe plays well, the Bucks are nearly unbeatable.

In games the Bucks have won, Bledsoe’s net rating is a whopping 17.9. In losses, Bledsoe’s net rating drops to -7.9. When Bledsoe locks up the other team’s point guard, knocks down some outside shots and attacks the rim relentlessly, the Bucks look like championship contenders.

When Bledsoe has an off-night or struggles from the field, the Bucks are much more vulnerable, especially without Malcolm Brogdon to pick up some of the slack.

So far in the playoffs, Bledsoe has been magnificent, averaging 20 points, five assists and two steals while shooting 51 percent from the field and a blistering 61 percent on two-point field goals.

But if Bledsoe again falters against Boston and the Bucks bow out in just the second round of the playoffs after a 60-win season and home-court advantage, Bledsoe is going to take a lot of the blame, fairly or unfairly.

Narratives, as unfair as they are, can shape an entire player’s career and if Bledsoe doesn’t perform well against Boston in this year’s playoffs, his incredible regular season will be overlooked and nearly forgotten.

Bledsoe needs to play well and the Bucks need to win for Bledsoe’s redemption tour to truly be complete. This series can, and likely will, shape the entire narrative around Bledsoe’s career.