MILWAUKEE — The Bucks have a formula that works. The team’s two biggest stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, compliment one another perfectly — both are lengthy, active defenders, and offensively, Antetokounmpo’s tendencies as a battering ram are way easier with Middleton serving as a marksman from deep and vice versa. It’s the kind of symbiotic relationship that every team would love their stars to have, and more often than not this season, the Bucks have been able to ride this formula to wins.
Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals didn’t quite work out that way. The Boston Celtics made it a point to punch Antetokounmpo in the mouth, and while he had 22 points, it came on a 7-for-21 performance from the field. In turn, Middleton couldn’t really get loose, scoring 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting. In related news, Boston won by 22 points.
But the Bucks know to apply the immortal words of Beach Boys vocalist Mike Love: Don’t f*ck with the formula. Overreacting to one game is much easier than trusting what led to your squad winning a league-high 60 games during the regular season. The good news for Milwaukee is that the squad took the latter approach to Game 2.
“It’s just one game,” Middleton said after the game, a 123-102 drubbing of the Celtics at Fiserv Forum. “That’s the thing we told ourselves after Game 1. They punched us in the mouth, they won by 20+ or whatever, but at the end of the day, we only lost one game.”
As you can imagine, taking the one game at a time approach worked best for the Bucks’ stars. After a pair of snoozers to start the series, Antetokounmpo and Middleton were masterful. The former went for a game-high 29 points on 7-for-16 shooting, pitching in 10 boards and four dimes. This was despite facing a Celtic defense that was hell-bent on making sure he couldn’t penetrate, forming a phalanx straight out of ancient Sparta. Behold, this mediocre picture I took with my cell phone sometime in the first half.