Celtics, Blazers aim to protect home court after road wins

ABS-CBN Sports on May 03, 2019 08:12 AM
Celtics, Blazers aim to protect home court after road wins
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 30: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2019 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images).

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press

The Celtics and Trail Blazers have stolen home-court advantage in their respective second-round playoff series. Now they’re focused on keeping it as their series shift to Boston and Portland.

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Boston, the East’s fourth seed, came out strong and took Game 1 against top-seeded Milwaukee before getting blown out in Game 2. The series resumes at TD Garden on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), and the Celtics like their chances on a court where they’ve won 12 of their last 13 playoff games.

For that trend to continue, Boston must get a better performance from Jayson Tatum. The second-year forward averaged 19.2 points per game during the Celtics’ first-round sweep of the Pacers, shooting 50 percent from the floor. In two games against Milwaukee, he has nine total points while connecting on 24% of his field-goal attempts.

“I watched film. I acknowledge that I gotta be better overall,” Tatum said. “And I will be better. It’s a bad game. It happens. I don’t think too much of it. Just ready for Game 3.”

The Celtics will also be thinking about team President Danny Ainge, who suffered a mild heart attack in Milwaukee on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Celtics said the 60-year-old Ainge, who also had a mild heart attack in 2009, is expected to make a full recovery.

Milwaukee will be hoping to replicate its Game 2 performance in which it outscored Boston 39-18 in the third quarter of a 123-102 victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton carried the load, with help from Eric Bledsoe. He scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting after contributing six points on 1-of-5 shooting in Game 1.

“We’re really dangerous, especially if Bledsoe is going downhill and is in attack mode. We’re a totally different team,” Antetokounmpo said.

Out West, the third-seeded Blazers return home for Game 3 against the second-seeded Nuggets eager to play with the same sense of urgency they displayed in their 97-90 Game 2 win.

Portland was also helped by a historically bad second-quarter effort by Denver. The Nuggets trailed 50-35 at halftime after the franchise’s worst quarter ever at home in the playoffs (12 points). They made just 5-of-23 shots and missed all 10 of their three-pointers in the quarter.

“They say the series starts when someone wins a game on the road and we were able to do that,” said Damian Lillard, who had a poor night shooting in Game 2. “So our goal is to just take it one game at a time and protect our home floor. ... We have to be just as sharp, if not better because you know they are going to come back better.”

A look at Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) games:

BUCKS AT CELTICS

Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 8 p.m. EDT (8am, PHL time)

NEED TO KNOW: The Bucks bounced back after losing Game 1 to even the series. Games 3 and 4 are in Boston, where the Celtics are 12-1 over the past two postseasons.

INJURY WATCH: Milwaukee could get a boost in Game 3 with Malcolm Brogdon possibly available for the first time since mid-March, when he suffered a plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Celtics guard Marcus Smart continued to do some shooting and mobility drills in practice Thursday (Friday, PHL time) as he recovers from a partial tear to his left oblique.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Milwaukee got huge nights in Game 3 from Antetokounmpo and Middleton, who made seven of the Bucks’ franchise playoff-high 20 three-pointers. Boston is allowing an average of just 82.5 points per game this postseason at home.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Bucks’ supporting cast. Antetokounmpo had help in Game 2 and it allowed him to play freer on offense, without expending a great deal of energy. That must continue over the next two games for Milwaukee to be able to take back home court.

NUGGETS AT TRAIL BLAZERS

Portland leads, 2-1. Game 4, 10:30 p.m. EDT (10:30am, PHL time)

NEED TO KNOW: The Blazers have won 11 straight at home dating to the regular season. Their last home loss was March 7 (Mar. 8, PHL time) in overtime to Oklahoma City. ... Portland was 32-9 at home in the regular season. ... The Blazers are a four-point favorite.

INJURY WATCH: Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray was hobbled by a right leg injury. He was seen riding an exercise bike in the fourth quarter of Game 2. ... Blazers forward Maurice Harkless rolled his right ankle in the second quarter and didn’t return.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Nuggets forward Torrey Craig. He wore a clear mask after bloodying his nose in the second quarter.

PRESSURE IS ON: Lillard, who was 5-of-17 from the field for 14 points in Game 2. His supporting cast picked up the slack with five other players scoring in double figures.

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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver and AP freelancer Charlies F. Gardner in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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