Bucks vs. Celtics: Wesley Matthews shuts down Jason Tatum to help Milwaukee play key 3 of Boston

MILWAUKEE – As the referees headed to the monitor to review the final game of regulations, a replay appeared on the big screen inside the Fiserv Forum showing that Al Horford’s fingertips were still in contact with the ball when the red light came on. A noisy crowd erupted, and the celebration began before crew chief Zach Zarba could officially announce that the Milwaukee Bucks had won the 3rd game of their second-round series with the Boston Celtics, 103-101.

Saturday’s showdown was a lot of things: physical, dramatic and controversial. Sometimes it was more like an ECW Street Fight match than a real basketball game. But in the end, it was a Bucks win, as they fought – literally – to control the series away from the Celtics.

Now 2-1, the Bucks are just two wins away from their second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference finals and their third appearance in four seasons. To get there, they’ll need more defensive performance like the one they put together in Game 3, as they held the Celtics at 36.8 percent of shots and an 82.4-percent attack rating on the half court, according to Cleaning The Glass.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of their effort was holding Jason Tatum at 10 points on a 4-on-19 shot from the field. Tatum’s playoffs for points, percentage of goals from the game and free throw attempts all came in this game. It was also tied for his second-lowest all-season result, and for the first time since March 30 that he failed to score a three-pointer. In short, Tatum is closed.

“[Wesley Matthews] takes over most of that task, Jrue [Holiday] it takes him a little bit and the individual pride of those two guys, the individual defensive skills are pretty special and unique, “said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.” And then the defense teams around them. Brook, Giannis, activity, competitiveness were in a good place. “

In less than two minutes of play Matthews set the tone. He snuck under the screen to interrupt Tatum’s ride and force the Celtics star to hand over the ball. Then, when Tatum tried to speak, Matthews pushed him out of his seat, stuck to his, and forced a terrible reversal.

At the end of the fourth quarter, after the Celtics went into a 20-9 run to reduce the gap to one, Matthews was back in the game with his most impressive single possession against Tatum. He struggled through the screen, interrupted one drive then another, forced himself to turn and stayed on his feet to win the competition after being thrown off balance.

These are moments that stand out. One-on-one battles in which every person watching is focused on that specific action. No confusion, no deeper knowledge of the game needed to understand how much Matthews is forcing Tatum to work to succeed at all.

The statistics of the closest defenders aren’t always perfect, but they do mean something, especially when you get ones like Tatum 0-for-10 when Matthews was the primary defender.

“He was amazing,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “He was amazing. He held him in front, showing his bodies, the crowd as much as possible, forcing him to record heavy blows. He was amazing.”

But as incredible as it was at times, Matthews ’isolation defense wasn’t the only reason Tatum had one of the most ineffective games of his postseason career. The veteran did a lot of work with the ball and early possessions that often went unnoticed to set himself up for success.

Take, for example, this game at the beginning of the third quarter. The Celtics forced Tatum to bring the ball to the floor, so Matthews started pressing him close to midfield and forced him to pass the ball. A few seconds later, Marcus Smart turned it around. Matthews will not get a stolen or disputed blow for it. He probably didn’t even notice it, but he helped his team.

All night Matthews (and Holiday) were physically with Tatum. They picked him up early, kicked him out of the place and made him work just to tour the field, let alone try to score. Ironically, this is similar to what Tatum and Co. made Kevin Durant with great success in the first round.

“It’s a game within a game,” Holiday said. “Sometimes you may be the first side, sometimes you lag behind. You just want to give him a different look. Someone who is a prolific shooter, someone who can leave at any time, you have to give them a different look. Not just me, but Wes did a great job on Not giving him space, making it harder, try to keep him away from the free throw line as much as possible. “

Matthews and the Bucks did their job on Saturday, and if they repeat this performance on Monday, they will have a chance to win the command lead in the 3-1 series. But All-NBA players like Tatum aren’t going quiet, and he’ll be back with a vengeance. If he achieves a great night, the Celtics can score 2-2 and steal the advantage of the home field of the right back.

“I mean, I obviously expect to play better,” Tatum said. “I have to be better. I know that and my teammates know that and I’m sure I will.”

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