2018 NBA Playoffs: How Bucks' role players paved way to dominant Game 3 win over Celtics
Matthew Dellavedova, Thon Maker and Jabari Parker contributed in big ways on both ends of the floor
MILWAUKEE -- Just over three minutes into Friday night's Game 3 at a sold-out Bradley Center, Eric Bledsoe picked up his second foul. It seemed like a bad omen, a continuation of the struggles Bledsoe -- and the Milwaukee Bucks as a team -- had over the first two games of their first-round series with the Boston Celtics.
As Bledsoe took a seat on the bench, the frustration plain on his face, veteran backup Matthew Dellavedova entered the game. Without a second thought, Delly began picking up Terry Rozier full court, pressuring him this way and that. It not only flustered the young Celtics point guard -- Rozier turned it over four times in the first quarter -- but set the tone for the night. The young Bucks were not going down without a fight.
And a fight is exactly what it felt like for the Celtics. "They came out together as a team and punched us in the mouth early," Rozier said after the Bucks concluded their 112-96 beatdown of the Celtics in Game 3. "They were more physical than us, they were more intense than us," Jaylen Brown added, as the Celtics saw their lead in the series cut to 2-1.
It was a surprising result, not because it happened -- teams down 0-2 in a series often win Game 3 at home -- but because of how it happened. Milwaukee completely dominated from start to finish, even holding the Celtics to fewer baskets than turnovers at halftime.
And they did so without getting spectacular games from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. That isn't to say those two were bad, that certainly wasn't the case. They finished with 42 points on a combined 18 of 31 shooting. However, it wasn't the Giannis and Khris show as the past two games had been.
The Bucks were led by their role players in Game 3 as the reserves finally stepped up in the way the Bucks needed them to over the first two games in Boston. Seven players combined for 50 points off the bench -- more bench scoring than they got in Games 1 and 2 combined. Here's how Milwaukee's reserves stepped up to save the day.
Necessitated more by foul trouble than by plan, Delly was the first one off the bench for the Bucks in Game 3, and even though he scored just five points, he was vital in terms of setting the tone, especially on the defensive end. "We were on our heels the whole time," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after the loss, and it was because of plays like this from Dellavedova.
Watch how he picks up Rozier full court, just making life miserable for the Celtics guard:
Though he helped force Rozier into a few turnovers, Delly's work would have been successful even if he hadn't. By pressuring like this, he disrupts the Celtics' rhythm on the offensive end:
On some possessions, the Australian would even deny Rozier the ball, forcing someone else to bring it up court, just further disrupting the Celtics' plans on offense. This is just an incredible sequence by Dellavedova, by the way:
Thon making big plays
After a strong showing in the playoffs last season as a rookie, there were high hopes for Thon Maker this season in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, he didn't develop quite the way the team had hoped, and was earning DNP-CDs at the end of the season. It's likely he wouldn't have even played in Game 3 if John Henson hadn't missed out due to a back injury, but Maker being forced into action turned into a blessing in disguise for the Bucks.
As much as Dellavedova changed the game with his defensive work on the perimeter, Maker did the same at the rim. He rejected three shots in the first quarter, and finished the game with five blocks. Not only did he play a big role in holding the Celtics to 2 of 18 from the field in the first quarter, but the blocks both helped the Bucks get out in transition, and fired up the crowd.
In addition, Maker had some big moments on the offensive end as well, draining three 3s on his way to 14 points -- his third highest scoring game of the season.
Everyone in the Bucks locker room raved about Maker's performance. "It means a lot," Giannis said of Thon's performance. "Thon for me is like a little brother … He did a great job coming in and gave everybody energy. He blocked shots, he made shots. I am proud of him."
As for the man himself, Maker explained that he's able to perform on this stage because, he feeds off the energy of the crowd and doesn't want to go home.
"Playoffs just really get me hyped. The crowd, even if it's an away crowd, just to hear that noise, you just get motivated," Maker said in front of his locker after the game. "You just feel like you have to leave everything on the floor. It's the end of the season. There's teams sitting at home watching us, and I do not want to be those guys. So I got to find a way to get out there and give everything I got."
Jabari bounces back
And finally, there was Jabari Parker. After two really poor games in Boston, where he scored just two points on 1 of 7 shooting combined, and some interesting quotes in the lead-up to Game 3, Parker stepped up.
If he wasn't on Joe Prunty's good side before, he certainly is now. In 30 minutes off the bench, Parker was 7 of 12 from the field for 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and was plus-17.
"He was a professional tonight," Middleton said of Parker's performance. "He had a rough start to the series but we've all talked to him and have told him we need him… In Game 2 that was a rough night for him. Game 1 was also rough, but he bounced back tonight. He was professional and that's what we expect from him. He's a dangerous guy and a dangerous scorer and a great teammate."
Parker didn't talk to the media himself, but he had done enough on the court to let his performance speak for itself. It was exactly the type of performance the Bucks need from Parker -- play good enough defense as to where he's not a complete liability on that end, and give a much-needed scoring boost.
In particular, Parker had an important stretch in the third quarter that helped secure the Bucks' win. The Celtics had cut the deficit to 14 points with five minutes left in the third quarter, and with Giannis going to the bench, things could have got pretty interesting. But Parker stepped up, rattling off seven straight points to prevent the Celtics from getting any closer:
While replicating quite this performance is going to be tough for the Bucks' role players, they'll need to contribute in similar ways in Game 4 on Sunday if the Bucks want to even up the series.
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