BOSTON — After the Boston Celtics launched a franchise-record 55 3-point attempts against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, and made a franchise-record 24, Kyrie Irving was asked if 55 attempts was too many.
Irving was emphatic in his answer.
“Never,” Irving said. “Get ’em up. They’re wide open. If they’re going to play defense like that, then I don’t see why not. Al (Horford) is a capable shooter I have the utmost confidence in. And then if we don’t have it we have secondary actions as well that we can run. But I feel like if they’re going to play that type of defense we should just shoot it every time. At one point I think Brook and John Henson were in the paint. So get ’em up. I hope we shoot 80 next game if they play defense like that.”
The Bucks’ 3-point defense was a little inexplicable, particularly given Boston’s accuracy. The Celtics hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer, getting into a comfortable rhythm and building a big double-digit lead. Khris Middleton’s heroics helped the Bucks close the gap down the stretch, but the Celtics always felt like they could get any look they wanted.
Part of that was Milwaukee’s pick-and-roll coverage. The Bucks tried to avoid switching, and their centers — when Antetokounmpo isn’t the center — are slow-footed and struggle to get out to cover Horford. The Bucks then have to make a choice: Give up a three to Horford (who hit four on Thursday) or go into rotation and give up a three from one of Boston’s other players (who hit 20).
“The pick-and-rolls the big was lagging back, so it was like, cranking shots up for me,” Marcus Morris said after finishing 5-for-8 from behind the arc with 17 points. “Pretty cool, though.”
The Celtics needed two more made threes to set an NBA record. Many of the looks came off ball movement, instead of the isolation attempts the Celtics hoisted more frequently at the start of the season.
“Since the second half of the OKC game, we’ve played pretty good offensively,” Brad Stevens said. “We’ve gotten good shots. We’ve generated good ones. Tonight, we didn’t settle as much. We still had some possessions we’d like to have back, but I thought that we took what the defense gave us. We got to the second side of the floor, and we found open shooters.”
Part of Boston’s success, as Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer noted after the game, simply came thanks to Irving’s brilliance. The star guard hit a variety of tough shots, creating space and knocking down semi-contested looks.
“I think they are playing a lot of pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop bigs, so they got a ton of them from there and a couple of them in scramble situations,” Budenholzer said. “Then Kyrie creates lots of threes in random situations. They got a lot of different ways that they create the threes, but the one that stood out the most was the middle pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop.”
When those threes fall, the Celtics are deadly, and the hand-wringing over the offense can look kind of silly.
Morris would contend it looked silly anyway.
“There were concerns about the offense?” he said.
Informed that the concerns mostly came from the media, he smirked.
“The media gonna say what they say,” Morris said. “We didn’t see it that way. Obviously we had to move on. Move the ball more. We’re doing a better job. Five games? That’s a good thing, ain’t it? Four games? It’s 82 games, so I’m happy it was happening to us early. Down the road we’re going to fix it, still go hard and get it right.”