C’s Look to Respond After Bucks ‘Switched’ Things Up in Game 2

BOSTON – NBA teams are constantly having to make adjustments throughout a best-of-seven playoff series. For the Milwaukee Bucks during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Tuesday night, that meant switching things up – literally – against the Boston Celtics.

After barely switching at all during a 112-90, Game 1 loss, the Bucks adjusted their defensive scheme and came out scrambling all over that end of the court. The mix-ups kept Boston’s players on their toes throughout the night, which helped Milwaukee to flip the switch by cruising to a 123-102, blowout win of its own.

“It was a little bit of a wrinkle,” Celtics wing Gordon Hayward admitted after Friday morning’s shootaround ahead of Game 3 in Boston. “But we just have to execute what we want to do a little bit better – not let them push us off our spots and get into our space.”

Milwaukee had switched very little during the regular season as well, though the sudden change didn’t come as a complete surprise to Brad Stevens.

“They haven’t switched much all year, but one of the things about the NBA is that you play against switching every game,” Boston’s coach explained. “The Pacers, who hadn’t switched much all year, also went to switching (during the first round). We had to prepare quite a bit for that in Games 2, 3 and 4 of the Pacers series. The whole league has gone very athletic and small, so you see switching as a primary defense with most teams all year.”

What made Milwaukee’s switching so difficult to counter was its combination of size, physicality and precision.

“They have the ability to do it because they’re so long and athletic. And that’s what they did last year in the playoffs,” Stevens recalled. “So, it was not unexpected by any means, but certainly more than they’ve done in the past. It’s not necessarily the scheme, but how hard they did it. Sometimes when you switch but you’re not into air space it’s not as effective, but they switched physically, they were tough, and they were helpful.”

It was the opposite of what the Bucks showed during their lopsided loss in Game 1. Milwaukee’s defense looked like a sieve at times during that contest, but its coaching staff was able to dissect the issues and make corrections in time for Game 2.

“In Game 1 we got beat 1-on-1, screen and roll, Al Horford popping, and we gave him wide open looks,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe explained after Game 2. “When we went back and looked at the film, we just thought that was the right thing. Coach (Mike Budenholzer) did a great job and the staff did a great job of making adjustments. In the Playoffs, you have to make adjustments and that was one of the big adjustments we made."

After seeing those adjustments, the Celtics, and Kyrie Irving, in particular, are already scheming how they can deliver a counter punch of their own.

“I feel like we paced the game pretty well,” Irving said looking back on Game 2. “But it starts with me being down in that paint and making the right reads, and I failed to do that. That responsibility falls on me, in terms of just controlling the tempo a lot better. They were getting out in transition, they made plays, but there were times, examples in the game where I could have slowed us down and got us into some sets we've gone to and attacked the switches, and especially when Khris (Middleton) and Nikola Mirotic are switching on me. That's something where I've just got to go by them.”

Friday night, it will be Boston’s turn to switch things up on the Bucks, as it looks to grab a 2-1 series advantage back on its home court.

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