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Bucks’ Jabari Parker hasn’t fulfilled his promise

Jabari Parker has struggled to stay healthy in his four seasons with Milwaukee.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In the summer 0f 2014, the decision to draft Duke forward Jabari Parker ahead of immensely talented but oft-injured Kansas center Joel Embiid could be defended, even applauded. Parker was the “sure thing,” an NBA-ready prospect with refined offensive skills; Embiid the alluring enigma with a higher ceiling and lower floor. How fast reality shifts in the NBA .

Milwaukee spent the second pick in 2014’s NBA Draft on Parker, with Philadelphia selecting Embiid third. The rest is history.

Parker may as well have stayed at the team hotel for Tuesday’s sleepy 120-106 Game 2 drubbing at the hands of the Celtics. The 23-year old posted a bagel in both points and assists, playing just over 10 minutes as Milwaukee coach Joe Prunty searched for answers that weren’t there. Pursed lips were a common postgame theme amongst Bucks players, Parker ducking out to the team bus before the visiting locker room was opened to media.

The former Blue Devil scored 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes during Sunday’s Game 1 .


“There are a lot of things that we’ll have to go back and look at on the film,” said Prunty, cleverly skirting his way around a question about Parker’s production.

“He’s one of those guys that we need to pick up what he needs to do on the floor. He’s got to be assertive, but when we say that a lot of times people will think, ‘Oh, that’s offensive — he has to look for his shot.’ No. We need everybody to be out there to guard, to defend, keep the ball in front of him.”

Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker (left) heeds his coach’s wish as he defends against Al Horford in Boston’s win Tuesday night.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

While Embiid’s ascension up the hoops hierarchy currently knows no bounds, Parker has plodded his way through four injury-riddled seasons in the Midwest, chided for his perceived brittleness when he’s out of the lineup and for his lethargic defense when he’s in it. Parker has appeared in over 51 games in a season just once, recording 31 this season while shelved by the second major left knee injury of his career.


The final quarter of the 2017-18 regular season provided a much-needed glimmer of hope in the eyes of Milwaukee brass regarding what Parker may be able to offer offensively. His six April outings were especially notable, the broadly built stretch power forward averaging 19.5 points per game in over 31 minutes of action on near 50 percent shooting.

Through two tortured showings at TD Garden over the past 72 hours, it’s clear Parker’s torrid final month hasn’t carried over into the postseason.

One sequence in Tuesday’s third quarter highlighted Parker’s main deficiency — defensive effort — and how Boston worked to exploit it.

Just when it appeared Milwaukee may be gaining traction down by 6, the Celtics retaliated, peeling off a 10-2 run that culminated in Jaylen Brown canning a corner three. Milwaukee turned it over, Parker and teammate Tony Snell lethargically puttered up the court in transition, and Brown beat the five black jerseys to his spot behind the arc where he was fed for his 24th, 25th, and 26th points of the evening and a 78-64 Boston lead.

Timeout Bucks.

This wasn’t the only time Parker got caught up in Brown’s sterling offensive display. Late in the first quarter, Boston big man Aron Baynes put his sizable shoulders to good use, hitting Parker with a flare screen that sprung Brown open for a trey and Boston’s first double-digit advantage.


“We need to fight through screens; can’t get confused on screens,” said Prunty. “Jabari is one of those guys but all of our guys have to be ready to go out and defend and play at a higher level than we did tonight.”

Fellow Coach K disciple and current Celtic, Jayson Tatum, insists Boston isn’t targeting Parker specifically when he’s on the floor, explaining that the right matchup can isolate and identify anyone as fair game. The dynamic Boston rookie knows Parker can still be dangerous if used correctly on offense.

“I feel like he can get his shot whenever he wants to and he’s tough to stay in front of,” Tatum said. “That’s my guy. I’ve always been a big fan of him and I looked up to him when I was younger. We cool people.”

Owen Pence can be reached at owen.pence@globe.com.