After Game 1 ended in a thrilling overtime win for Aron Baynes and the Boston Celtics, the stage was set for a hotly anticipated Game 2 at the TD Garden, and the potential for our Aussies to ply their trade on the court.
During Bucks' shootaround on Tuesday morning, The Pick and Roll asked Milwaukee Bucks head coach Joe Prunty if there was any concern about throwing Dellavedova into the playoffs, after returning for just one game before the postseason.
"He's ready to go. We would've loved him to have had more game time [in the lead up], one game is not a lot, but he's worked extremely hard [to be healthy]."
A playoff veteran and an NBA champion, Dellavedova brings far more to the table than just box score stats. Prunty was glowing in his praise when discussing the guard's role.
"[Dellavedova] brings a ton to the table in terms of experience, knowledge, corporate knowledge of what we do," Prunty said. "He's just another one of our guys that needs to be ready."
For the Celtics, Aron Baynes was limited to just 14 scoreless minutes in Game 1, but Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was clear about the big man's role on the team.
"Baynes is a guy that's going to start for us," Stevens confirmed during the pre-game conference. "We'll continue to rely heavily on him whether that's for 10 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes."
With that in mind, one might have felt like a steady dose of Aussie contributions were due.
The game started in eerily similar fashion to the first, as Milwaukee was unable to secure defensive rebounds and repeatedly gave the ball away. Baynes did indeed start, and contributed two offensive rebounds in 4:50 of court time.
After going down by double-digits in the first quarter through multiple turnovers and poor rebounding, the Bucks managed to come back from their deficit, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition as the move to insert the high-energy Shabazz Muhammad paid dividends. A 13-0 Milwaukee run tied the game at 35 with 8:47 remaining in the half.
The Celtics steadied themselves and took a 50-44 lead with 3:34 remaining, prompting Prunty to call on Dellavedova --to the jeers of the parochial home crowd-- to replace the struggling Eric Bledsoe. Dellavedova played out the half, contributing an assist on a Khris Middleton triple, but the Bucks fell behind further to go into the half down 51-60.
Aron Baynes continued his strong start, as the Celtics looked prepared to stay with the bigger lineup they steered clear of in Game 1. Despite only having scored four points by half-time, it was Baynes' work on the glass that was proving a nightmare for Milwaukee. The Australian centre grabbed four of Boston's eight first-half offensive rebounds, and gave the Celtics multiple second-chance opportunities.
Two missed Antokounmpo free throws and a Baynes blocked shot on Eric Bledsoe set the tone for Boston out of the break, as the energy in the arena hit fever pitch. The Celtics pushed away as the Bucks began to show signs of fragility. By the time Baynes checked out of the game with 3:38 remaining in the period, Boston had sped out to a commanding 80-65 lead.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, the Bucks' carelessness with the ball continue to bite them, as they committed four turnovers to one in the third. Incredibly, the Bucks were shooting a red-hot 60 percent from the field through three quarters, and still trailed by 14 points.
By this point, the floors of the TD Garden were shaking, as the party was about to fully kick off. The theatrics from Game 1 was always going to be a hard act to follow, and a drama the Celtics were clearly not interested in repeating. They kept the foot on the throttle, and the Bucks began to wilt. After a Shane Larkin layup, the lead had ballooned to 20 with 7:22 remaining.
Aron Baynes returned to collect another rebound, his fifth of the night, to go with a second blocked shot in the fourth. The Celtics completed a thorough dismantling of a rattled Milwaukee unit, who appeared to be reeling in what originally looked to be a golden opportunity to advance.
The Celtics won 120-106. Baynes was a huge factor in this game, Dellavedova not so much, only recording one rebound and one turnover in 4:34 of court time.
Thon Maker saw a single minute of garbage time, registering one rebound. Prior to tipoff, The Pick and Roll enquired about the role of Milwaukee reserve big men Tyler Zeller and Maker in the series. Prunty gave a lengthy response on Zeller, but failed to mention Maker. The silence could be an indication on where Maker sits in the pecking order right now.
In the Celtics locker room post game, Baynes kept an even keel on what has been an impressive start to the 2017/18 playoffs.
"We know the series doesn't start until someone wins on the road. Right now, [the series is] even as it is." he said. "We know we've got to improve, because they are going to tweak some things [in Game 3], so we've got to keep competing on every possession because they all count."
Baynes finished the game with six points, six rebounds and two blocks. Boston has now won one game going small, and another sticking with the big guys. Baynes is right - the series is far from over, but for Dellavedova, Maker and the Bucks, it's teetering right on the edge.
Boston currently leads the series 2-0. Game 3 will be at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Saturday morning 1130hrs AEST.