Milwaukee Bucks prove they’re still a defensive force in Game 1 win

BOSTON, MA - MAY 01: (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 01: (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

After all of the up-and-down performances through the regular season, including a down the stretch where they were one of the league’s worst defenses, the Milwaukee Bucks have flat out dominated defensively through six playoff games.

Sure, they ran roughshod through the Chicago Bulls but they were expected to do so. Yeah, they held them to a 94.4 offensive rating (over eight points lower than their regular-season rating) but it’s the Bulls, a team that won fewer than a handful of games against the best teams in the league. They simply took care of business.

So, how would they fare against a Boston Celtics team that had the best offensive rating in the league after the All-Star break at 122.6? In short, pretty darn well after one game!

How the Milwaukee Bucks defense powered them to a Game 1 road win

For all of the attention that the Celtics’ defense got since the beginning of 2022 and for how they slowed down Kevin Durant in the first round, they found themselves up against a championship-caliber defense and couldn’t quite get out of the mud on offense.

Neither team shot particularly well around the rim, but the Bucks’ sheer refusal to allow anything even close to the basket was fun to watch.

Per Cleaning the Glass, Boston attempted 31 shots at the rim or from floater range compared to 44 for Milwaukee. The Bucks shot 38.6 percent on those shots while the Celtics were held to 32.2 percent. Again, it was tough sledding inside for both teams, but the Bucks denying those shots as a whole was a huge part of it.

According to Kirk Goldsberry and ESPN Stats & Info, the Celtics shot 2-of-23 on contested 2-point shots which is the second-lowest field goal percentage on contested 2s in a playoff game since they started tracking in 2014! That’s pretty darn good defense!

The Bucks’ frontcourt duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez had an absolutely dominant defensive day, from the traditional box score stats to the fancy tracking stats. In terms of the regular box score numbers, they combined for five blocks, a steal, and 16 defensive boards.

When it comes to tracking data, they combined to hold Boston to 1-of-15 on 2-point shots.

In the first round, the Celtics shot 68.5 percent in the restricted area. In Game 1, they shot 45.5 percent.

The Bucks dared the Celtics to hit enough 3s to beat them and they couldn’t do it.

If you watched any of the Celtics’ first-round series, you would have seen how physical they were in guarding Durant and Kyrie Irving. They would try to deny them getting to their spots, bump them off-ball, and generally try to bother them every chance they could.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, physicality is the Bucks’ calling card and it seemed to catch the Celtics off guard with just how physical the Bucks are. To be clear, Boston was still very physical, but it didn’t shock or surprise Milwaukee. They’ve been through a championship run, they know how physical these games can be.

Give the Celtics credit, their defense also showed up in the first game of this series. Robert Williams was a menace defending the rim and made life difficult for every Buck who dared enter his territory. In the end, though, the Bucks’ defense was better and they threw the first punch of this series. Expect the Celtics to punch back so it’s up to the Bucks to absorb that blow.

Next. 3 questions before the Milwaukee Bucks face Boston Celtics in round two. dark

The Milwaukee Bucks can steal the second road game as well tomorrow at 6:00 pm CT.