Celtics try to take commanding lead on Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- As the playoffs approached, the Milwaukee Bucks thought they might catch a break by finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference, setting up a first-round series with the Boston Celtics, who'd go into the postseason without point guard Kyrie Irving.
Through the first two games of the best-of-seven series, which resumes Friday night at the Bradley Center, the Bucks have learned to be careful for what they wished for.
The Bucks returned home in a 2-0 deficit in large part because of the performance of Irving's replacement, Terry Rozier.
Rozier, a third-year point guard, has torched Milwaukee's defense, scoring 23 points in each of the first two games, while averaging 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
He's been a particular source of frustration for Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe. Rozier is 7 for 17 when matched up against Bledsoe who, conversely, is 4 for 13 from the floor with Rozier as his primary defender.
When asked about Rozier after Boston's 120-106 victory in Game 2, Bledsoe pretended to not know who the reporter was asking about, saying "who the (expletive) is that" and Thursday, as Milwaukee returned to its practice facility to prepare for Game 3, he maintained ignorance.
"Who?" Bledsoe said. "I'm focused on this series, man, between Milwaukee and Boston right now. I'm just trying to help the team win. That's what point guards do."
Rozier certainly is but Bledsoe has done anything but. He's scored 21 total points on 9-for-25 shooting, including a 2-for-6 mark from beyond the arc.
He's also committed six turnovers, something that's been a significant issue so far from the Bucks, who've committed 35 in the series.
The Celtics have made them pay for those miscues -- 20 percent of Boston's scoring in the series has come off a Milwaukee turnover -- and, while holding only a two-rebound advantage on the glass, have made the most of those opportunities, too, racking up 20 offensive rebounds which they've converted for 42 points.
"Our transition defense has to be better -- part of that comes from our turnovers -- and our rebounding has to be better," Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty said. "It's not necessarily high-volume as much as it is, when they get them, they turn them into points."
Prunty said he hadn't addressed the Rozier issue with Bledsoe and also dismissed the notion that forward Jabari Parker was not on his "good side," as Parker hinted earlier Thursday.
The forward, who didn't appear in a game this season until Feb. 2 while rehabbing from a torn ACL, had finished the regular season strong, averaging 19.5 points in 31.8 minutes over the final six games. But he's played only 25 minutes in the series, scoring two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
"He's on my good side," Prunty said. "We need him and everybody to be ready to go when they step on the floor and play well."
Rozier downplayed the notion of bad blood or a personal rivalry with Bledsoe and said the Celtics won't take anything for granted in Game 3, even with a somewhat comfortable advantage.
"We already know they're going to come out aggressive," Rozier said before Thursday's practice. "They're going to come out hard.
"We're coming out with the mind-set that we can forget about the taking care of home court. We're coming out and we're still going to be aggressive, because we're coming out to win. That's our goal. We've got to pay attention to details."
Updated April 20, 2018