Giannis Steps Back Up
Up until a minute and half before halftime it had been a back-and-forth game.
Then Giannis gathered the ball after a Celtics miss and made a full court beeline and delivered what may not have appeared to be the uh-oh moment of his ferocious slam from a few minutes earlier but which signaled destruction all the same if only a bit more subtly.
First the Celtics froze and a moment later when they realized what was happening they seemed to forget everything else in the world other than Giannis and who could blame them. All five Celtics shrugged toward him.
That left everyone else on the Bucks open including one Eric Bledsoe wide open for a layup. Giannis naturally passed him the ball.
Bledsoe nonetheless kicked to a scorching and also wide-open Middleton in the corner who naturally hit.
That gave the Bucks a 53–51 lead. It was a lead they would not just keep but use as a springboard to what became the type of blowout win that would have fit snugly in their thoroughly dominant regular season, or the first round against the Pistons, or nearly any time over the past six months other than a disjointed Game 1 against the Celtics.
To that point in the game Giannis had been aggressive including getting to the line consistently but had not appeared to find his groove.
Giannis received credit for only a hockey assist —just the type that helped propel the Bucks to a historic three-point shooting season — on that Middleton corner three that gave the Bucks a 53–51 lead. In Game 2, Giannis racked up four such hockey assists, four times as many as the Celtics had combined as a team (1).
He then came out of halftime and promptly eviscerated what had been a physical and smart and impressive Celtics defense that had seemed to always be both here and there.
Giannis turned the everywhere-Celtics defense into a nowhere-Celtics defense caught between trying to stop him going to the rim and retreating to the perimeter to open shooters. The result was that they were neither here nor there. The result was a 28–2 run that ended the game in trademark 2018–19 Bucks fashion which is to say fashionably early.
Take a look at his first basket of his 15-point third quarter.
That is a defense — a defense that had ranked number one in the playoffs before night fell — that was breaking.
By late in the third quarter Giannis was pulling up one-on-five from beyond the arc. The same Giannis who shot a pair of airballs from three earlier in the game.
The Bucks were never going to go 16–0 in the playoffs (no one ever has), and the Celtics made sure of that in Game 1, but that Giannis three-pointer started a little 16–0 run anyway.