Two games into their first-round playoff series, Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe and his Boston counterpart, Terry Rozier, still seem to be having trouble remembering each other’s names.
Maybe it’s the sign of a festering feud with the Celtics up 2-0 as the series shifts to Milwaukee. Perhaps it’s a case of Bluegrass State bragging rights between Bledsoe, who played at Kentucky, and Rozier, who played at Louisville, though they never faced each other in college.
Or it could be just a case of good-natured gamesmanship between two competitors.
Through two games, it is advantage Rozier with Game 3 coming up Friday night.
He had 23 points in Game 2 on 8-of-14 shooting, including 3 of 5 from the 3-point line, to match his postseason career scoring high set in Game 1. Rozier is shooting 7 of 16 from beyond the arc so far this series.
So much for the Celtics being at a disadvantage at the point without Kyrie Irving, who is out for the playoffs following knee surgery.
“We’ve talked about his competitiveness, his athleticism and his work ethic being at the highest level. That usually lends to good players improving quickly,” coach Brad Stevens said about Rozier.
Irving’s absence seemed to tilt the point guard matchup toward the Bucks, especially with Bledsoe playing well at the end of the year. Traded from Phoenix earlier in the season, Bledsoe was eager for his first taste of the postseason since 2013, when he was with the Clippers.
Bledsoe is averaging 10.5 points against Boston, but the offense has been plagued in part by turnovers. He fouled out in Game 1.
“My offense will come. I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about playing great defense and helping my teammates while I’m out there,” Bledsoe said after practice Thursday.
The bulletin-board material between the ball-handlers has become just as engrossing a story line.
“I ain’t got no bad blood with nobody,” Rozier said in Boston. “I’m not caught up in that. I’m worried about Celtics and Bucks and how can I help my team get past the first round.”
Except that Rozier may have triggered this made-for-social media spat by calling the Bucks guard “Drew Bledsoe” after Game 1 on Sunday. Drew Bledsoe is the former quarterback of the New England Patriots.
“Yeah I made a huge mistake,” Rozier said with a chuckle. “But it is what it is now.”
After Game 2 on Tuesday, Bledsoe was asked about Rozier.
“Who? I don’t even know who that is,” Bledsoe responded, adding an expletive.
Bledsoe struck a similar tone after practice on Thursday. When asked about Rozier by name, Bledsoe responded: “Who?”
“I’m focused on this series, man, between Milwaukee and Boston right now. I’m just trying to help the team win,” Bledsoe said. “That’s what point guards do.”
Playing in front of a home crowd might help get the Bucks going. This is the last postseason for the franchise in the Bradley Center, with a new arena next door scheduled to open the in the fall.
Bucks coach Joe Prunty said he hadn’t spoken to Bledsoe about his comments.
“I think there’s a lot of talking that takes place,” he added. “What I’m more concerned about is what we do on the basketball court and how we play.”
Now it’s time for Rozier to show if he can be just as effective in the playoffs on the road.
“Down 0-2, going back to their place where you know they’re going to come out aggressive,” Rozier said. “We’re coming out, we’re still going to be aggressive and we’re coming in to win.”
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this story.
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