It's on to Game 3, with Celtics ready to make adjustments

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston

It's on to Game 3, with Celtics ready to make adjustments originally appeared on

MILWAUKEE - The goal for most NBA teams when playing on the road in the playoffs is to at least get a split of the first two games. 

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Doing so not only moves them one step closer to the next round, but it shifts the home-court advantage in their favor, which was accomplished by the Celtics after their Game 1 win over Milwaukee. 

The Celtics weren't thinking a whole lot about that following a 123-102 loss to the Bucks in Game 2 of their best-of-seven second-round playoff series. 

The series is tied as it shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday. 

"It's not what we wanted," Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. "We wanted to head back home with a 2-0 lead. Obviously, it didn't happen so we have to move on."

And that "move on" mindset is what has allowed the Celtics to not get too caught up in whatever just happened - good or bad - in the regular season which was an up-and-down-affair for the Green Team.

Still, before they can look too far down the road, the C's must use the lessons learned in Game 2 to help prepare them better for Game 3, which will indeed be defined on many levels by both teams' adjustments. 

Despite Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer insisting his team would make very few adjustments following their Game 1 loss at home, it was clear from the very outset of Game 2 that he was planning to shake up things a bit. 

First, there was the insertion of Nikola Mirotic in the starting lineup in place of Sterling Brown. Mirotic had a near double-double of nine points and nine rebounds, although most of his numbers came after the Bucks had the game under control. 

And throughout the course of Game 2, there was the constant switching defensively by the Bucks - something they did not do much of in Game 1, or for that matter, in the regular season. 

The lineup change didn't have much of an impact on the game's outcome, but the defensive tweak was a major factor in the win. 

Boston has been at its best this season when it leaned on ball movement, making sure players on both sides of the court touched the ball, which tends to create great shot attempts versus good ones. 

But the Milwaukee's switching created more one-on-one-type matchups, which then led to a number of Celtics players looking for their own shot rather than the best shot for the team. 

Boston had 34 made field goals in Game 2, but only 19 came by way of an assist.

"They were just scrambling and we got frantic and took some quick shots that led out to some transition baskets," said Kyrie Irving, who scored just nine points - the second-fewest points he has ever scored in a playoff game (the fewest was six for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Chicago Bulls in 2015). "We gave them some pretty easy plays, but they made the right reads as well."

Milwaukee also did a better job of putting Khris Middleton in more situations on offense where he could be an effective scorer. 

To his credit, he responded with 28 points which included a career playoff-high seven made 3-pointers with many of the pull-up-off-the-dribble variety. 

"One of our main things, playing with pace," said Middleton. "They're a great defensive team, once they get set. The main thing for us was to try and get a stop and get out and run, play with pace, attack. I was able to find open threes like that."

Improving the game plan on defending Middleton will surely be near the top of Boston's need-to-get-better-at list.

"We need to get better with that," said Al Horford, when asked about defending Middleton. "He really got going early and just kept it going. Obviously, we'll have to look at film and see what we can do better, but we have to give them credit; they responded."

And now it's on Boston to go back to the lab and come up with a better game plan, knowing that the pressure to win has now shifted to them if they are to reclaim home-court advantage in this series. 

"That's what it's all about, watching a lot of film, study," Rozier said. "That's what they did so now we have to adjust and do the same thing."

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