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Boston Celtics return to form, dominate Christmas Day matchup against Milwaukee Bucks, 139-118

The Celtics’ recent struggles looked like the Ghost of Christmas Past as they blew out their Eastern Conference foes

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

After a blowout win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, the Boston Celtics entered their Christmas Day headliner against the Milwaukee Bucks with a little bit of positive momentum on their side. As the premier matchup of the NBA’s Christmas slate of games, the Celtics turned that little bit of momentum into a lot more, scoring a commanding 139-118 blowout over the Bucks to put themselves back in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston, recording his fifth consecutive 30+ point game — and the second-most Christmas Day points in Celtics history, behind Tommy Heinsohn’s 45 — with 41 points on the night. Jaylen Brown added 29 on 11-of-19 shooting, and the Celtics enjoyed a robust game from their bench, who scored 40 points combined as a unit. For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, but largely scuffled for much of the night, to the tune of 9-of-22 shooting from the field, while Jrue Holiday added 23 points and 7 assists.

The Celtics’ recent scoring troubles looked like the Ghost of Christmas Past as play began this afternoon. They absolutely scorched the nets in the early going, starting the game 9-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from behind the arc through midpoint of the opening quarter. Brown scored 13 first quarter points, and a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Sam Hauser scored the Celtics a 36-28 lead entering the second quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Bucks forward Bobby Portis picked up a controversial technical foul. After getting tangled up with Grant Williams on the glass, Portis appeared to make contact with his hand on Williams’ back. The play went to video review and was upheld, and Tatum made the technical free throw, followed by a Blake Griffin layup on the ensuing possession to provide the Celtics a valuable swing on the scoreboard.

The sequence gave the Celtics an edge, but it wasn’t long before the Bucks rattled off a quick 8-0 run to keep themselves within striking distance. They continued to claw their way into the Boston lead, helped along by a quieted Celtics offense that followed their 36-point first quarter with a 26-point second (as well as a rather rough foul on a Joe Ingles three-point attempt from Robert Williams). Milwaukee wasn’t quite able to flip the scoreboard, however, and the Celtics entered the halftime break with a 62-61 lead.

The third quarter belonged to Jayson Tatum. He scored a blistering 20 points in the quarter, completely reversing the Bucks’ erstwhile momentum from the first half in the process. He spearheaded another sterling quarter for the Boston offense, as they scored 38 in the frame. The lead surged into double-digits, and the Celtics entered the final quarter leading 100-86.

The bench stepped up in the early minutes of the fourth, with Malcolm Brogdon and the Williamses (Robert and Grant) finding timely buckets to capitalize on a few minutes of rest for Antetokounmpo to open the quarter. The Celtics pushed their lead ahead as far as 18 points, and Milwaukee’s attempts to come back were stymied by some timely three-pointers from Brown. Antetokounmpo picked up a technical foul for a confrontation with Brown with just under four minutes to play, and that effectively put the cap on the blowout victory for the Celtics.

Next up, the Celtics approach the end of their lengthy homestand by hosting the very youthful Houston Rockets this Tuesday at 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Boston.

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