Despite Gordon Hayward’s early exit, and Kyrie Irving’s recent knee surgery, the Boston Celtics find themselves up 2-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference first round. Coming in as the second seed in the east, you would expect Boston to be in this position right now, but resilience has been on full display from Brad Stevens and the Celtics and that is the factor as they claw their way through the first round without Irving, Hayward, and defensive stars Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis.
When players go down, it takes guts from other role players to step up, and that is exactly what Terry Rozier has done. In the two games played thus far, Rozier is averaging 23 points with just over 5 assists and a steal per game. To go along with his impressive stat line this series, Rozier has had some clutch moments including his potential game winning 3-pointer that was later wiped out by Khris Middleton’s unbelievable buzzer-beater from 35 feet out.
Success comes with hate, and that is exactly what Terry Rozier has received from Eric Bledsoe. It may have to do with Bledsoe’s poor performance, as Rozier completely lost him on his step back three to take the lead in the final seconds of game one. At the same time, Bledsoe’s playoff shooting numbers (.360 FG%, 10.5 PPG) are low compared to what he has done in the regular season (.473 FG%, 17.7 PPG). After game 2 of the series, when Bledsoe was asked about Rozier’s performance he asked the reporter “who? I don’t even know who the f— that is.”
We all know Bledsoe very well knows who Rozier is, as he’s been burned by him in the last two games. The issue between the two may have stemmed from the post game press conference after game 1, where Rozier refer to Eric Bledsoe as Drew Bledsoe in what looked like a mistake. The series can only get better from here, as the competitiveness and tension between the two teams starts to ramp up.
The young stars of the team Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to display their talent in their first and second postseasons. Tatum has been a hustler up to this point with nearly 4 steals a game while Brown leads the pack in scoring with 25 PPG. Meanwhile, the veteran Al Horford leads the team in FG% at .632 and has been one of the main facilitators for the offense in the absence of Irving.
The Bucks have clearly been less impressive, but their best and reliable players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are still putting up huge scoring numbers for the Bucks. The same can’t be said for players like Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Tony Snell who only has 4 points in the series thus far. In fact, the Bucks backcourt has been outscored in the first two games of the series 96-25. If the Bucks want to win, the backcourt will need to pick up the slack. For now, the Celtics keep on rolling.