MILWAUKEE — Fiserv Forum was reduced to a low hum Sunday afternoon.
The sellout home crowd that proudly chanted “Fear the deer!’’ moments before tip-off sat stunned. Their beloved Milwaukee Bucks, who racked up a league-high 60 regular-season wins, were getting picked apart by the Celtics in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.
“It felt like, as a team, we didn’t make the extra effort,’’ said point guard George Hill, who scored 9 points off the bench. “You have to tip your hat to Boston. They played a great game, moved the ball well, and made us look like we didn’t know what we were doing out there sometimes.’’
Giannis Antetokounmpo — the MVP candidate? He shot 33.3 percent from the field and finished a minus-24. Antetokounmpo’s first field goal didn’t come until the opening minute of the second quarter, and another 10 minutes passed before he notched his second.
Eric Bledsoe — the starting point guard who, in March, inked a four-year, $70 million contract extension amid perhaps the best two-way season of his career? He finished 1-for-5 from the field, tallying just 6 points. Out of his 78 regular-season starts this year, Bledsoe attempted five or fewer shots on only four occasions.
Center Brook Lopez? He, too, finished with one field goal. Guard Sterling Brown? Yes, he also finished with one field goal. Milwaukee’s starting lineup combined to shoot 15 for 50 from the field, as a group that averaged 118.1 points per game during the regular season couldn’t eclipse the century mark for the first time since Feb. 21.
“Both ends of the court, we’re going to have to be a lot better,’’ Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the 112-90 defeat. “Credit to Boston, individually and collectively, they played well today. We didn’t.’’
The 22-point margin marked Milwaukee’s worst loss through 82 regular-season and five playoff contests this season. For a team that cruised past the Detroit Pistons by a differential of at least 16 points in each of their first-round games, Sunday was a rude awakening.
“We know we didn’t play well,’’ said shooting guard Khris Middleton, who finished with 16 points. “Boston came here and just threw a punch at us.’’
The Celtics actually threw several.
First, there was the 17-3 first-quarter run to open a 9-point cushion after 12 minutes. The Bucks then stormed back with a 15-0 run of their own in the second, making it a 2-point game at the half, but the Celtics issued another jab, in the form of two 12-0 runs, in the third quarter.
With 12 minutes remaining and Milwaukee trailing by 17, Bucks fans sat in shock — and silence.
The team’s mascot, a deer named Bango, attempted a series of backward half-court shots during the break between the third and fourth quarters, while the in-arena host repeatedly begged fans to make some noise. Bango himself gestured for the crowd to get loud, but the pair’s efforts were to no avail. Hoisting heave after heave, Bango missed all of his attempts — a fitting cap to the sad scene.
The fourth quarter came and went, but not without a few boos trickling down from the rafters. After the final buzzer, Antetokounmpo spent some time simply sitting at his stall in the locker room. He, too, seemed stunned. He sat with his chin perched on his palm and looked straight ahead, perhaps in hopes of making sense of what just happened.
“It doesn’t matter what I was thinking,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “Right now, we just have to focus on playing better. Obviously, it was one of the toughest losses we’ve ever had all season, especially at home. We just have to regroup, watch the tape, and be ready for Tuesday.’’