Bucks pound Celtics by 21 as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton even series

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Much to Paul Pierce’s chagrin, this series is not over.

The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their second-round series, 123-102. It was an absolute drubbing by the Bucks, particularly after halftime when Milwaukee scored 39 points in the third quarter compared to Boston’s 19.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points to go with 10 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. The Greek Freak went to the free-throw line 18 times, dominating from the charity stripe. Teammate Khris Middleton poured in 28 points with seven rebounds.

All in all, it was a triumphant return to how the Bucks played throughout the first round against the Detroit Pistons. For Boston, it was a return to the kind of irregular play that we saw from them during the course of the regular season.

And to be honest, that’s was the biggest takeaway from Game 2.

The Celtics have been bandied about as potential NBA Finals contenders since July, when LeBron James decided to change conferences and head to the Los Angeles Lakers. But they have often been up and down with their play, and a dark cloud has hung over their locker room culture, blocking the light around Kyrie Irving.

For as much as he tried to force the issue to start of the third quarter, Irving just couldn’t get it going on Tuesday night. The Boston point guard scored just nine points in total, going 4-of-18 from the field.

The series now turns to Boston, with things tied 1-1. The question will be whether this Celtics team can come together and find some sort of continuity. Even with some of their starters in on Tuesday night, the Celtics couldn’t get it together against a staunch Bucks defense that often didn’t have Antetokounmpo on the floor.

It’s not going to be a sweep for either of these teams now. Confidence was at least restored in part for Boston after their Game 1 win over the top-seeded Bucks. Now, with Boston showing flashes of how they looked at their worst this season, we have to wonder whether they can activate a playoff mode of their own or are simply going to revert to old habits.

Milwaukee was always a favorite in this series. Boston showed signs of life on Sunday. If they want to convince us that we should have any confidence in them at all, they need to show up and show some consistency at home starting in Game 3.