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Bucks target energy bump, not game plan, for G2

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks spent the 82 games of the regular season, followed by the four more it took them to dispatch the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, playing one way. Doing so allowed the Bucks to post the NBA's best record and Giannis Antetokounmpo to produce a season that has him likely to win this year's Most Valuable Player award.

But then came Sunday's blowout loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals -- a loss that gave away home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series and reignited doubts from around the league about whether Milwaukee's playing style and personnel are good enough to back up its regular-season performance.

If there were any questions about whether the Bucks had their confidence shaken by the loss -- and, as a result, felt a need to change what they are doing -- Antetokounmpo emphatically answered them following Monday's practice.

"Definitely not," he said when asked whether the Bucks need to make big changes to their game plan to respond to how the Celtics played. "We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing all year. I don't think we should change at all. Why should there be a change after a game that we lost? We should not be the team that made the adjustment.

"We are going to come out and play our hardest and see how Game 2 goes. If it doesn't go well for us, then you can think about adjusting. But right now, we are not adjusting nothing. We are just going to play. Be us. Go out there and compete."

If there was a consistent theme from all who spoke at the Bucks' practice here at their gleaming facility Monday afternoon, it was that the level of energy and effort -- and not the game plan -- was the biggest thing that needed to shift from Game 1 to Game 2.

Antetokounmpo included himself in that group, saying he needs to play harder -- and that his family, and specifically his older brother, called him out for not playing hard enough in Sunday's loss, in which he shot 7-for-21 from the floor.

"My older brother usually doesn't call me after games," Antetokounmpo said. "But he was like, 'You got to play harder. You have to help your team and play hard.' [He] definitely told me that.

"Coach [Mike Budenholzer] told me that I've got to put more effort, I've got to be more aggressive, I've got to find my teammates, I've got to do a million things we talk about. That's what I do. I'm going to try to keep getting better and come out tomorrow and do what I've got to do."

Throughout this season, the Bucks have been a team that has made no secrets about how it was going to approach each game. Offensively, the goal was to get the ball in Antetokounmpo's hands, surround him with floor-spacing shooters and let him go to work. Defensively, shots at the rim and behind the 3-point arc were to be prevented; anything in between needed to be contested but was preferred.

In Game 1, though, neither worked. The offense was stifled by Boston's defense, led by an exemplary performance by Al Horford against Antetokounmpo. The defense, meanwhile, allowed the Celtics to shoot 54 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from 3-point range, and Boston also went 15-for-27 on midrange shots -- season highs in both makes and attempts this season.

The Bucks have relied on the math at both ends of the court working in their favor all season. They are anticipating that will return to form in Game 2 -- thus eschewing the need to dramatically alter their approach.

"I think just some of our basic stuff defensively, offensively," Budenholzer said. "I think just our activity, I think the competitiveness that we need just wasn't where it needs to be.

"We just got to play better. Give credit to Boston, obviously they impacted how we played. They played well. We got to impact them more. They played well; we didn't. We need the opposite in Game 2."

The lack of effort was noticeable enough that Budenholzer lit into the team during its pre-practice film session analyzing what took place during Sunday's game.

"He chewed us out," said Eric Bledsoe, who went 1-for-5, including missing all four 3s he took, in 25 minutes in Sunday's loss. "He chewed us out during film today. ... Film don't lie, so people can say what they want, but once they get on film, they can see what really happened. Bud and his staff do a great job of watching a lot of that and see where we can pick it up."

As the Bucks made clear Monday, they think the biggest thing they need to pick up is their energy and effort after they said they flatlined in both areas in Game 1. But it would certainly help if they also made some shots. Bledsoe was just one of several culprits on that front. Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Nikola Mirotic combined to go 9-for-13 from 3-point range. The rest of the Bucks, however, went just 4-for-26 behind the arc.

"You've got to keep shooting the shots you've shot all year," Antetokounmpo said. "We've been playing basketball, a lot of guys have been playing basketball since they're 8 years old, 9 years old. So if you miss a shot, it's nothing. You can fix that.

"Like for me, I don't care if I miss shots. If I don't play hard enough, that's what I care about. I know my team is going to be ready to knock down shots tomorrow, and I'm going to be ready to knock down shots tomorrow. Not to put pressure on anybody, but what I really care about is what we do as a team.

"We're going to go out there and play really hard. Whether we make shots or miss shots, we're going to play hard."

One thing that won't happen -- at least in Game 2 -- is Malcolm Brogdon returning from the torn plantar fascia in his left food that has sidelined him since mid-March. Although Budenholzer said Brogdon continues to progress, Brogdon won't be available Tuesday night -- though the door seems to be left open for him to return when the series shifts back to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night.

"He continues to get better," Budenholzer said. "No setback as we go day-to-day. He went longer and harder today, so I think we're all hopeful he comes in tomorrow feeling good. He looks a lot like Malcolm that we've known.

"I think he and I are very much on the same page. He's very much on the same page with the medical. We'll see how these four, five days -- now we're three or four into them -- and evaluate him at that point and assess what the next step is."

For Boston, Aron Baynes said the rolled ankle he suffered in Game 1 was "bloody annoying" but that he would be ready for Game 2. The Celtics officially listed him as questionable. Marcus Smart, meanwhile, remains out, with Celtics coach Brad Stevens saying there will be no update on a timeline for his return from a torn oblique until Smart actually returns to practice.