The Boston Celtics, piloted by 30 points from Jaylen Brown, rode a lead for three and a half quarters Tuesday night to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-106 in Game 2 of this first-round playoff series. Brown is the youngest Celtics scorer to meet this mark in the playoffs.
Though the young Boston wing will surely dominate the highlight reel, the win was another study in grit for a depleted Celtics roster. They walked away +11 points off turnovers, beat Milwaukee on the offensive glass, and continued to flummox the Bucks’ backcourt.
Brown led the scoring for Boston early, grabbing 12 of his 30 in the first quarter and going 2 for 4 from beyond the arc. Brown had the TD Garden crowd on their feet with a thunderous left-handed jam when he caught Milwaukee’s defense sleeping in transition and attacked the paint.
Horford was just as aggressive early on in Game 2 as he was in Game 1. Along with backing down Jabari Parker on the block for a strong turnaround bucket, he was able to snag a steal off a Milwaukee mistake and throw down a two-handed dunk on the break.
Al Horford grabs the loose ball and takes it all the way for the slam! pic.twitter.com/Gu71OysPEH— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2018
The team was active on the offensive glass early. Six of their 11 first quarter rebounds offered up second chance buckets. And while Antetokounmpo snagged an aggressive 10 points in the first, Boston held the rest of the Bucks at bay and finished the quarter with an 11-point advantage, 33-22.
Milwaukee hit the gas in the opening minutes of second quarter, rolling into a 13-0 run to tie the score a 35-35. Antetokounmpo lead the way. He got a remarkable and-one bucket off a blocking foul on Shane Larkin, heaving the ball at the rim and sinking the shot. The play was a reminder for Boston that, even at their best, they’d limit the Milwaukee star without stopping him entirely.
Terry Rozier snapped the run with a fallaway three from the left corner and woke up his teammates. Baynes picked up two easy points with a put-back layup on the next possession, off another one of Boston’s eight offensive rebounds in the first half. Brown followed suit less than a minute later, capping a 7-0 Celtics run that equaled the lead at 42-35.
After quiet first quarter, Khris Middleton woke up. He scored all of his 10 first-half points in the last six minutes of the second quarter and was deadly from midrange. Middleton’s shooting and brief flares from Malcom Brogdon and Antekounmpo help Milwaukee hang on, while Boston poured on the effort. That included this beautiful move from Antetokounmpo, crossing Marcus Morris into oblivion.
Morris must’ve taken Antetokounmpo’s crossover bucket as an insult. He came down the court on the next possession and stunted on the Buck’s MVP candidate with a stepback three.
Rozier finished the quarter for the Celtics with another transition basket, picking off a pass above the top of the key and throwing it down with less than 30 seconds to play in the half. At the break, Milwaukee trailed 60-51, though they were shooting over 60% from the field to Boston’s 49%.
Brown got 10 more of his 30 in the third quarter, including an exciting corner three that he drained off a beautiful pass from Terry Rozier.
Monroe got two of his 12 early in the fourth with a beautiful spin move on Middleton early in the fourth quarter to put the Celtics up 17. His connections with Larkin added an offensive burst to the Celtics, who only got four points out of Jayson Tatum in Game 2.
With 8:47 to play, the Celtics had an 18-point lead. They reached that mark, their biggest lead of the game, even though Antetokounmpo had already scored 26 of his 30 points.
Milwaukee went small for a spell in the fourth quarter, and the personnel changes opened up some shooting for the visiting Bucks. Their offense came at the expense of their defense. Morris drilled a tough three, his fourth of the game with Middleton in his face. On the next possession, Middleton beat Morris to the rack, but took a hard foul and the two had a stare-down that put teammates in between them.
Marcus Morris said he has no hard feelings for Khris Middleton: “I’ve been competing with Khris since college when we used to beat their ass at Kansas.”— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 18, 2018
Milwaukee had the lead cut to 10 at 107-97 after that lineup shift. It allowed Bledsoe, Middleton, and Antetokounmpo nearly fight back into relevance.
But again, Morris and Rozier added spark to the Celtics offense and pushed the lead back out to 15 with back-to-back scores. Morris cut through the teeth of the Milwaukee defense and found Rozier for a trey from the left corner while Thon Maker yapped in his ear from the bench. Rozier and Maker were each assessed a technical as the game went to a break.
Brown hit the 30-point mark with a three off the backboard with just over two minutes to go. Sixty seconds later, Rozier aired out for a rebound over Antetokounmpo and brought the TD Garden crowd to its feet. The benches were emptied two possessions later.
Boston travels to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Friday, April 20.