The Bucks had Giannis Antetokounmpo. They had Khris Middleton. They had Malcolm Brogdon and Shabazz Muhammad off the bench. But in the end, Milwaukee didn’t have enough to hang with the No. 2 seeded Boston Celtics, who extended their first-round playoff series lead to 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Jayson Tatum only scored four points, but it didn’t matter. Jaylen Brown scored enough for two with 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting. He was a force for the Celtics all night, toying with the defense at times. Terry Rozier added 21 points and eight assists, and Marcus Morris brought 18 points with a ton of grit off the bench. In total, six players scored in double figures. The Bucks just didn’t have enough.
Antetokounmpo finished with nearly a triple double of 30 points (13-of-16 shooting), eight assists and seven rebounds. Few teams have an answer for The Greek Freak, and the Celtics are no exception. Middleton created his own offense, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 shooting from three. But the Bucks haven’t had much help this series outside of those two. Eric Bledsoe put up a dud until later in the game. By then, it was too late.
Milwaukee played 13 of its 14 players on the roster. Head coach Joe Prunty was searching but he couldn’t find the answer. That answer may or may not be on the roster. If not, the Bucks could be headed home, and not because Games 3 and 4 are both in Milwaukee.
4th quarter, 4:23 — Celtics 112, Bucks 97
Nope, I didn’t speak too soon. Marcus Morris has been cooking. He scored back-to-back baskets for his 18th point of the night, and when Bledsoe missed his layup, the Celtics pushed the ball and found Terry Rozier in the corner for an open three. This one’s just about done.
Maybe I spoke too soon. Milwaukee is playing some defense and made a slight comeback, but Giannis is down and clutching his ankle. He stepped on someone else’s foot on a layup attempt and took awhile to get up, then missed the following free throw.
There’s a sense it’s a little too late for the Bucks to make a meaningful comeback, especially with the defense the Celtics have been playing all game, but Brad Stevens calls a timeout after Milwaukee cuts the lead down to 14.
Marcus Morris and Khris Middleton are jawing a bit, and Morris sent him to the line with a hard foul. Middleton missed both free throws. Womp.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is unstoppable. He’s got 26 points on 12-of-14 shooting. He and Middleton are an awesome one-two punch. The rest of the pieces, though, aren’t hitting.
Also: This guy, right here, is the true champion.
The most impressive feat you'll see all night. pic.twitter.com/XaL61JqYoz— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) April 18, 2018
End of 3rd Quarter — Celtics 90, Bucks 75
Shane Larkin just hit a fading three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 15-point lead heading into the 4th quarter. Seriously. Shane Larkin. It’s that kind of night for Boston.
Giannis is trying his best. He’s got 22 points with only two misses on the night. But the Celtics are firing from all angles. They’re exploiting Milwaukee in transition when they do miss, and they look like the better team here — at home — despite a barrage of injuries that have scrapped their stars from the playoffs.
Jaylen creates some space and drills the jumper! pic.twitter.com/TBibxvtKCJ— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2018
The Celtics are doing that thing where they use their defense to keep opponents from scrap back into games, again.
HALFTIME: Celtics 60, Bucks 51
Giannis shook Marcus Morris...
... then Marcus Morris came up court and DUSTED Giannis, then STARED HIM DOWN:
That’s what kind of first half it’s been in Game 2 between the Celtics and Bucks. Boston pulled away early, Milwaukee punched back, but the Celtics have stayed strong with their key guys stepping up with the C’s long list of injuries.
Jaylen Brown has 16 points in 14 minutes, including a dirty crossover on John Henson and a nasty dunk on Tyler Zeller:
Jaylen Brown puts the defense on skates! pic.twitter.com/YgBf782oOH— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2018
Jaylen Brown goes coast to coast for the slam. pic.twitter.com/Jj5tJmzFbN— RealGM (@RealGM) April 18, 2018
Terry Rozier has 14 points, and Morris has 10 off the bench. The Celtics are somehow up nine points without Jayson Tatum scoring in the first half.
The Bucks have virtually been a two-man show with Giannis and Khris Middleton combining for 28 points in the first two periods. Shabazz Muhammad (YES, SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD) and Malcolm Brogdon have also helped off the bench, which is why Milwaukee is still within striking distance, but they’ll need some more help from their others — specifically Eric Bledsoe (only four points in 17 minutes) — to mount a comeback.
Giannis legit just euro-stepped through Shane Larkin, got the foul, plus a body-contorting layup. On the next possession, he stepped right through Larkin in transition, again, and got a basket. Timeout Boston.
End of 1st quarter: Celtics 33, Bucks 22
We just letting Al Horford do whatever he wants now, right?
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
Jaylen Brown just went coast-to-coast and threw it all over Tyler Zeller.
The Bucks and Celtics will tipoff for Game 2 at 8 p.m. ET, on TNT Tuesday night, following up what may have been the most exciting Game 1 of the playoffs. Sunday afternoon in Boston featured three game-tying or game-leading shots in the final 10 seconds, which eventually forced an overtime. The Celtics came away with the win, 113-107.
Malcom Brogdon drained a three to tie things up with 10 ticks to go, and that was just the start of the madness. It was Terry Rozier who then put on an array of dribble moves to cross up Eric Bledsoe, and step-back to drain what many thought was the game-winning three-point shot with .5 seconds to go.
A 36-foot hoist from Khris Middleton evened the score at 99 before the Bucks fell in overtime.
The Celtics are in for a real series with Milwaukee, as Gordon Hayward remains sidelined for the season, along with Kyrie Irving. Marcus Smart is also still nursing a torn tendon in his thumb. This is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s chance to capitalize and flip the script on what was an underwhelming regular season.
Anteotkounmpo had 35 points on 21 shots in Game 1, joined by Middleton’s 31 on 20 but it wasn’t enough. The Bucks will look for better production from Bledsoe, who finished with nine points on 12 shots, and five turnovers.
Celtics vs. Bucks Game 2
Date: April 17
Where: TD Garden
When: 8:00 p.m. ET