Shooting 18-for-50 from three on your home floor isn’t the best omen for a series against a two-time MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, but this Celtics team is known for overcoming a bad start.
Boston rebounded from a big Game 1 loss on their home court Tuesday night, defeating the defending champions 109-86 despite not having Marcus Smart on the court.
Jaylen Brown did the heavy lifting early, and Jayson Tatum carried the offense in the late stages of the game. Grant Williams hit six threes and played phenomenal defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Brown had 30, Tatum had 29 and Williams scored 21. Al Horford had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a game-high four steals. Now, Boston and Milwaukee now sit tied 1-1 going into Game 3 on Saturday.
Boston came out of the gates blazing hot, especially Jaylen Brown. Brown had seven of the Celtics’ first nine, attacking early. The Celtics defense was air tight to start against Antetokounmpo early, forcing the two-time MVP to shoot 0-for-6 from the floor.
JAYLEN BROWN DROPPED GRAYSON ALLEN pic.twitter.com/7h7H9x2aci— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 3, 2022
After nearly six minutes, the Celtics held a lopsided 15-3 lead, forcing a Bucks timeout. The tandem of Grant Williams and Al Horford was giving Antetokounmpo fits.
Three-point shooting was the key to the Celtics’ early lead, as Boston started 5-for-6 from deep. Milwaukee countered with paint attempts to try and chip away at the large deficit, but the Celtics continued to bury jumpers, leading 27-12 with two minutes remaining.
After a timeout down 15, the Bucks stormed back to score seven unanswered. Brown responded with a ridiculous step back three over Grayson Allen.
JAYLEN BROWN ARE YOU KIDDING?! pic.twitter.com/oiiIfruxfT— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 3, 2022
With 12 minutes gone, the Celtics held an 11-point lead, 32-21. Brown had 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and perfect 3-for-3 3-point shooting.
Horford was in peak playoff form to start Game 2, flashing the offensive versatility and putting the clamps on Antetokounmpo. No Bucks big man could get past Horford or Grant Williams in the first two quarters. Horford had four points, three assists, five rebounds and three steals through his first 12 minutes.
After 17 points in the first quarter, Brown continued to fire away in the second, hitting his fourth 3 and reaching 20 points as Boston took a 42-25 lead.
The Celtics offense was executing to a tee as the second quarter wore on, and the defense was in peak form. Boston forced Milwaukee to cough up the ball and take tough shots, and then continued to move the ball with purpose and find gaps in the Bucks defense on the other end.
At its largest, the Celtics lead reached 25, as the threes continued to drop. After Payton Pritchard’s second three, the Celtics were 11-for-16.
BALL MOVEMENT pic.twitter.com/TFLGjYwKXI— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 3, 2022
Every time Milwaukee seemed to have a response, the Celtics stormed right back. A Brown three, his fifth straight, stretched the lead to 65-40, which Boston carried into halftime. After shooting 18-for-50 from three in Game 1, the Celtics shot 13-for-20 in the first half of Game 2.
Brown had 25 after going nuclear in the first quarter, followed by Grant Williams with 11 and Tatum with 10.
Celtics lead 65-40 at the half— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 4, 2022
Brown - 25 points
Grant - 11 points
Tatum - 10 points
Celtics - 58.9% FGs
Celtics - 13-20 3Ps
Celtics - 17 ast on 23 FGs
Celtics - 7 TOs
Holiday - 11 points
Connaughton - 9 points
Portis - 7 points
Bucks - 42.9% FGs
Bucks - 2-8 3Ps
Bucks - 9 TOs
Antetokounmpo started to come alive as the second half began. The two-time MVP hit a three and got to the free throw line twice to start the third. That spurt was short-lived, as the Celtics defense continued to allow nothing easy. After a dunk from Antetokounmpo to cut the lead to 20, Boston called a timeout up 72-52.
The unconscious Boston offense regained sentience and came back down to Earth in the third as well. The occasional over-passing and lethargy on offense allowed Milwaukee to creep slowly back into the game. In the first seven minutes of the third quarter, Boston scored just seven points.
The defense still never skipped a beat. Grant Williams remained clutch on defense, forcing an offensive foul on Antetokounmpo for his fourth turnover.
Grant got Giannis locked up pic.twitter.com/5FEWqGK2n9— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2022
Even with big defensive plays, the offense lagged behind, allowing Milwaukee to make a 10-0 run.
A mid-quarter lull was short lived from the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo scored 18 in the third quarter alone on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. After another and-one opportunity for Antetokounmpo, Tatum responded with an and-one chance of his own, resetting the lead to 19.
Tatum struggled through the first three quarters, but was active on defense and kept the ball moving. His lack of scoring didn’t hurt the team too much. Despite three turnovers and some more missed shots than usual, Tatum still had 17 points and was shooting 6-of-12 from the floor near the end of the third.
TATUM IS A BAD MAN! pic.twitter.com/vq3acO8E45— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2022
More persistence from Milwaukee kept a late-third Boston run from swelling too large, so the Celtics lead sat at 17 entering the fourth, 83-66.
A foul-heavy start to the final period had both teams deadlocked through the first four minutes, Boston still leading by 17.
Milwaukee cut the lead to 15 before a Grant Williams corner three splashed through. After his fifth made three, Williams was 5-for-8 from deep, 62.5%.
With six minutes to go, Brown had just one made field goal in the second half after scoring 25 in the first half. Brown slowing down was contagious for the Celtics offense, which shot 4-for-10 in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
Antetokounmpo as a screener was working wonders for Milwaukee, as they pounded inside to chip away at the lead. With the score 94-82, the Celtics had just mustered up 29 points through 20 minutes of game time in the second half.
A clutch Tatum three broke a long drought for the Celtics, extending the lead back to 15. After some Jrue Holiday free throws, Brown took an offensive rebound, turned on the spin cycle and converted a big layup between three defenders.
CLUTCH BUCKET JT pic.twitter.com/amEvqjBn82— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2022
Those clutch buckets, including another Tatum three from the corner with two minutes left, put the nail in the coffin and evened the series at one game apiece.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics’ commanding game two victory, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss the outlook of games three and four in Milwaukee.