MILWAUKEE — The way the NBA game is altered in the postseason appears to be playing into the Boston Celtics’ hands.

And their biceps and elbows and forearms.

There can be no question the more physical game was the overriding factor that boxed in Giannis Antetokounmpo and held the Milwaukee Bucks to 28.1 points fewer than their best-in-the-league regular season average in Game 1 on Sunday, and 31.8 fewer than they produced in the first round against Detroit.

Antetokounmpo was bounced around inside to the point, getting a little out of control on his drives because he was anticipating contact that sometimes didn’t come. That led to him getting his shot blocked and other indignities as the Celts cruised to a 112-90 victory.

The Celtics obviously don’t want to flex too much in anticipation of the series resumption Tuesday night, knowing that a.) the Bucks will be loaded for bear and b.) the officials may try to maintain more control with early whistles – particularly in light of the criticism leveled at refs in the Golden State-Houston series opener.

But playoff basketball is just different, and the Celtics clearly adapted to it far better than the Bucks.

“It’s more physical – and it’s great,” said Al Horford, who was generally the first line of defense against Antetokounmpo. “It’s fun. It’s fun to be able to come out and compete, and play at this high level.”

To prepare for this kind of physical fun, Marcus Morris took to the weight room at the Bucks’ arena before stepping onto the court for a loose practice.

“I’m guarding a lot of bigger guys so every day I’m hitting it,” he said. “I’m hitting the weights hard, man.

“The intensity goes up. Guys get locked it. You know how that goes. There’s just more physicality. Fouls are harder so you can prevent and-ones and stuff like that.”

The primary and most important aspect of physical and tough basketball has nothing to do with drilling an opponent or even coming in much contact. It’s being where you’re supposed to be. Based on your defensive scheme, it’s getting into position to cover for a teammate or simply beating an opponent to his desired spot, getting in his way, triangulating properly to cut off a passing lane.

Along the way there are collisions – more at this time of the year than in the six-month preliminary to the playoffs.

How much more physical?

“Ah, it’s like tenfold,” said Marcus Smart, who’s still out with an oblique injury and admitted it’s killing him to miss out on this kind of rough game that suits him best.

“Everything is intensified. They let a lot of things go in the playoffs that they probably wouldn’t in the regular season. They really allow you to play, and if you’re not ready physically, mentally, psychologically, you’re not going to make it very far in the playoffs. The grind that your body takes is unreal in the playoffs. It’s at the highest level it can go. You’ve just got to be ready.”

The general idea is that players don’t walk onto the postseason court looking to nail someone, but rather that the pressing nature of the exercise – the win or be done stuff – sets the stage for more hitting.

“The intensity, the urgency is clearly upped for 48 minutes. If you take your foot off the gas, you’re cooked,” said Smart. “And the other part of it is, the best players are out on the court longer. And there’s a lot of subtle differences between playoffs and the regular season, for sure.”

Echoed Jaylen Brown, “It’s the highest form of basketball. It’s the best time of the year. The level of play increases. The intensity increases. What’s on the line is huge, so everything rises to the max.”

But as the old Pat Riley-coached Knicks and the Pistons before them proved, it can sometimes be a matter of math. When you’re fouling all the time, a number of them won’t get called, and by the time it’s sorted out, you’ve set the tone for the proceedings.

“Yeah, Knicks versus Bulls,” said Morris with a smile. “That was real basketball.”

As for whether the Celtics approached that style Sunday, Morris shook his head and said, “Nah, they’re never going to let it go that far again.

“But times like this, you don’t take for granted. You get to play the way you want to play and talk (expletive). You know, I enjoy it. I’d say I would have been a great player back in the day. Yeah.”

And the badder the Celts are allowed to be against the Bucks, the better their chances for getting to the next round.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.