Kyrie unfazed by G2 woes: 'What I signed up for'

MILWAUKEE -- For both Kyrie Irving and his Boston Celtics, Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks was one to forget.

But after Irving had arguably the worst postseason performance of his career, and his Celtics were annihilated in the second half of Milwaukee's 123-102 victory that evened this best-of-seven series at a game apiece, Irving was unshaken in his belief to lead Boston deep into these playoffs.

"There's no extra burden," Irving said after going 4-for-18 from the field and scoring only nine points. "This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.

"Being able to go back, get back in the trenches, get ready for another battle on Friday, that's what you live for. Basketball is fun when it comes like this and you have to respond, and this is the type of basketball you want to be playing this time of year."

There wasn't much fun about Irving's performance throughout this one -- or Boston's in the second half. This was just the second time in 58 career postseason games that Irving had finished under double figures scoring, with the first time coming four years ago with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game he left because of an injury after 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, Irving's performance from the field -- including going 1-for-5 from 3-point range to go along with four assists and three turnovers in 31 minutes -- left him with the third-worst shooting percentage in a game in his playoff career.

Six of those misses came in the first quarter, when the Bucks -- despite declaring they didn't need to make any adjustments coming into Game 2 -- not only came out and started forward Nikola Mirotic in place of Sterling Brown but also ratcheted up the pressure defensively, and switched as much as they have all season.

The result was that Irving in particular, and the Celtics as a whole, were left scrambling to try to cope with it.

"Like I said the other night, some shots are going to go in, some shots aren't," Irving said. "I tried to get to my spots, but they were really sending three over every single place I went on the court. That's a sign of respect.

"I've just got to be more efficient in controlling the tempo of the game, pace, where I want to get to on the floor and making reads better around that midrange area. They did a great job of switching tonight, forcing me left. Getting to the paint wasn't hard. It's just getting in there and making the right decisions."

Though Irving's game never got on track, the Celtics still had their chances. At halftime, Boston trailed by four, 59-55, and very much had a chance to sweep the first two games of this series and take complete control over it.

Then, however, the third quarter happened. And after both teams traded baskets over the first few minutes of the quarter, the Bucks closed it on an absurd 24-2 run, as Boston missed 10 of its final 11 shots from the field and committed six turnovers that turned into six Bucks points.

In an instant, a three-point deficit for the Celtics turned into 25, and the final 12 minutes became nothing but garbage time.

"They made shots," Marcus Morris said. "Other guys stepped up.

"It is what it is, man. That's the best part about having a seven-game series that now we get to go play on our court, where we're very good, and see how it goes."

Not only did the Bucks ratchet up the pressure defensively, they also lit up the Celtics from the perimeter. After going 13-for-39 from 3-point range in Game 1, Milwaukee shot 20-for-47 in Game 2.

Boston, meanwhile, shot just 10-for-28 from beyond the arc.

"We weren't very good on either end, but I do think our offensive settling and some of the shots we forced probably steamrolled on us in a lot of ways," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Hopefully we can be better at getting better shots, being able to set our defense so we're not scrambling the whole time, and then just doing a better job of really flying around and being into air space.

"I thought there were moments when we did it really well, and moments when we didn't."

Still, Boston does leave here with a split of the first two games -- meaning the Celtics have reclaimed home-court advantage, where they are now a combined 12-1 over the past two postseasons.

And, despite their struggles against the Bucks on Tuesday, Irving remains confident his team has what it takes to maintain control of this series as it shifts to Boston for Game 3 Friday.

"It's the playoffs," Irving said. "We're playing against a great team. They're No. 1 in the Eastern Conference for a reason. They finished the regular season strong, came out and did what they were supposed to do in the playoffs, and now it's two great teams going against one another.

"I've been in too many battles going back and forth to get too high or too low. Going back home you always feel good, but this one would have been great to get, but we didn't so now we go back home and reset our mindset going in and just have fun playing the game of basketball.

"Game 3, I'm looking forward to it."