Celtics legend Paul Pierce wondered aloud on ESPN’s NBA Countdown on Sunday what adjustments the Milwaukee Bucks could possibly make against his former team in light of Boston’s blowout win on Sunday afternoon.
Turns out, quite a few.
Milwaukee limited the Celtics to just 2 points over the final 7:06 of the third quarter, during which time the Bucks poured in 24. A three-point deficit quickly unraveled into a 25-point debacle and Boston couldn’t make up the difference, leaving it tied with Milwaukee at a game apiece in their Eastern Conference Semifinals series following the 123-102 romp.
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Khris Middleton, who put up a modest 16 points for the Bucks in their Game 1 loss, exploded for 28 on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, keying Milwaukee’s 38-point third quarter. He connected on seven of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc, left wide open with the Celtics committing to the Bucks’ MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
After a slow start, Antetokounmpo came alive in the second and third quarters, scoring 23 points between the frames and winding up with 29 to lead all scorers. He showed signs of life from 3-point range just like the rest of his teammates, connecting on two of his four attempts.
Milwaukee had seven different players make at least one 3-pointer, shooting a robust 43 percent from downtown.
Dormant in Game 1, Eric Bledsoe also exploded on to the scene for the Bucks with 21 points on 7 for 12 shooting.
The Celtics, meanwhile, suffered through perhaps the worst playoff performance of Kyrie Irving’s career. His 9 points were the second-fewest Irving has ever scored in a postseason game dating back to his days in Cleveland, failing to crack double figures on an abysmal 4 for 18 shooting performance.
Irving missed his first seven shots, during which time the Celtics were still very much alive in the game. A stepback jumper ended a 10-0 Milwaukee run to slice Boston’s deficit to 44-42 midway through the second quarter.
Boston's largest lead was seven points, the last instance coming at 32-25 after a Gordon Hayward free throw.
Irving was hardly the only Celtic who looked lost in Boston's first loss this postseason. Jayson Tatum had only 5 points, bringing his two-game total to 9 points on 4 for 17 shooting.
Despite playing 31 minutes, Hayward attempted only five shots from the field, making one and finishing with 5 points.
Marcus Morris wound up leading the Celtics with 17 points, joined in double figures by only Jaylen Brown (16 points) and Al Horford (15).
The Bucks also got 10 points apiece from Brook Lopez and George Hill.
Game 3 is Friday at the TD Garden at 8 p.m.