The Boston Celtics had to make tough shots down the stretch, have their ball movement be precise and crisp as well as make big plays defensively (that charge Amir Johnson took with 2:37 to play in overtime was huge).
And then they had to fend off the hot shooting of Milwaukee’s Tony Snell who drained back-to-back 3's to tie the game at 108 with 1:13 to play.
This wasn’t how the Celtics thought the game would play out, not after leading by as many as 16 points.
But it was a good night in terms of how it tested them and maybe most important, it was good enough to win as the Celtics edged the Bucks 112-108.
Isaiah Thomas may be Mr. Fourth Quarter for the Celtics, but in the closing seconds it was Jae Crowder coming through with Boston’s last four points – all from the free throw line.
Crowder, who played on the Bradley Center floor when he starred at nearby Marquette, finished with 20 points and six rebounds which included the final one as time expired.
Boston also got some strong play defensively down the stretch from Amir Johnson whose ability to provide help-side defense against a driving attempt by Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the key plays to the victory which was Boston’s third in a row.
And while Crowder was doing his best Thomas impression in the game’s closing seconds, Thomas’ scoring most of the night was huge as usual. The soon-to-be two-time all-star led all scorers with 37 points.
Boston scored the first six points of overtime, only for Milwaukee’s Tony Snell who was only on the floor to defend and shoot 3’s, make back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 108 with 1:13 to play in overtime.
After trailing the entire game, the Bucks rallied to come within 83-80 following a dunk by Jabari Parker – his first basket of the night. But on the ensuing Celtics possession, Thomas, double-teamed by the Bucks as soon as he crossed half court, found Kelly Olynyk for a lay-up.
Thomas wasn’t done.
The Bucks made it a one-possession game and this time, Thomas drained a 3-pointer.
Milwaukee wasn’t done, either.
Back-to-back baskets by the Bucks led to Brad Stevens calling a time-out and his team clinging to an 88-87 lead with 7:31 to play.
Out of the time-out, the Celtics got the ball in the paint to Marcus Smart who was fouled by ex-Celtic Jason Terry. He made the second of the two free throws to put Boston ahead by two points.
After a miss by Antetokounmpo, Smart found himself back at the free throw line and once again he split a pair of free throws which increased Boston’s lead to 90-87, only for Antetokounmpo tied the game with a 3-pointer.
Back and forth these two went with the Bucks continuing their rally while the Celtics seemingly doing just enough to cling to a slim lead.
Milwaukee took its first lead of the game, 95-94, following a 3-point play by Greg Monroe with 4:54 remaining to play.
The lead didn’t last long as Thomas drained a 3-pointer that put Boston back on top by two points.
It became a down-to-the-wire battle, a sharp contrast from how most of the game was played.