Three of the seven Aussies competing in this years NBA playoffs were in Boston's TD Garden for Game 1 of the Bucks and Celtics' first-round series. It turned out to be an epic contest, Aron Baynes' Celtics edged Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker's Bucks 113-107.
Dellavedova made his long awaited return to action against the Philadelphia 76ers in the final game of the regular season. When asked by The Pick and Roll pre-game about Delly's status, Bucks head coach Joe Prunty was straight down the line.
"[Dellavedova and Brogdon] both pulled up fine," Prunty shared. "Being a playoff game, the level of intensity picks up, but for both of them it's just about being ready to go."
The first quarter was turnover-ridden for Milwaukee, who gave the ball away eight times in the period, allowing the Celtics to establish early control. By the time Marcus Morris sunk a three-point attempt as he was fouled, the Celtics had raced away to a 29-17 lead. It was an auspicious start for Aron Baynes, despite being scoreless on three attempts, though he did collect one rebound and an assist in 8:13 of court time.
Baynes struggled to contain Milwaukee penetration, as both Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo were able to get by the Celtic center for easy buckets at the rim.
The second quarter was all Milwaukee, as Giannis Antetokounmpo inspired a 24-4 burst to start the period. All of a sudden it was Boston turning the ball over and allowing the Bucks to get out in transition, where they so often thrive for easy points. Bucks coach Joe Prunty appeared to tighten his rotation in the first half, with neither Matthew Dellavedova or Thon Maker seeing the floor through the first 24 minutes.
The second half was just as wild. The key run for Boston coming in a 1 minute and 48 second span through the middle of the quarter, where a 56-51 Milwaukee edge was quickly erased on the back of five quick points from both Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris.
As the game headed into the fourth quarter, Celtics coach Brad Stevens decided to ride Al Horford's hot hand at center over Baynes, who was rarely sighted after the earlier mentioned first quarter cameo. A tip-in from the relentless Morris gave the Celtics a seemingly comfortable 86-76 with just 4:37 left. The Bucks clawed their way back into the contest, eventually tying the game at 96 with a wide open Malcolm Brogdon three seeing nothing but net. Terry Rozier then shook Eric Bledsoe out of his boots to hit a clutch three of his own with just .5 of a second on the clock.
A spattering of Celtics fans began heading for the exits assuming the game was over, until Khris Middleton hit a 35 foot prayer to stun the raucous Boston crowd. Free basketball was on the cards.
The story of the extra period became foul trouble for Antetokounmpo, as he picked up his fifth and then controversially picked up his sixth with 13 seconds left and the Bucks down 4. In a sequence that befitted the game as a whole, Giannis frenetically attempted to lock the ball up for a jump ball. One referee called a foul, one called a tie up, the foul was the overruling call and Giannis was on his way. The game was over. Boston protected home court and took a 1-0 lead.
From the Aussie perspective, Baynes was largely nullified by the Bucks' athleticism, as Brad Stevens decided to go smaller with Horford at the five and Morris at the four. Those two combined for 45 points and 19 rebounds in game wining performances, so on the night it was the correct move. Whether or not Baynes will remain in the starting lineup for game 2 on Tuesday, only time will tell.
Neither Dellavedova nor Maker saw court action in game 1. Dellavedova was getting his ankle taped in the locker room postgame, and when asked by The Pick and Roll about his status moving forward, he was positive about his status.
"No aggravation, I'm just going to go and get some work in. I'll be absolutely ready to go whenever my name is called."
Sunday afternoon typified what playoff basketball was all about. Constant lead changes, swings in momentum, clutch shots and desperation plays. Aron Baynes took the first game over his Aussie mates, and we can hardly wait for the next game.
Game 2 of the Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks series tips off Wednesday 1000hrs AEST, 18 April 2018.