Al Horford, Kyrie Irving combine for 50 in Celtics' 96-89 win over Bucks


Al Horford, Kyrie Irving combine for 50 in Celtics' 96-89 win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE – The tests just keep coming for Al Horford who found himself once again facing an extremely talented and versatile offensive player in Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Horford’s ability to defend Antetokounmpo better than anyone has this season along with having his best scoring game of the season, set the tone for Boston’s 96-89 win over Milwaukee.

The Celtics (3-2) have now won three in a row along with evening up the head-to-head series with the Bucks (3-2).

Horford finished with a near double-double this season, tallying 27 points and nine rebounds. Boston also got a strong game from Kyrie Irving who had 24 points and seven assists.

Antetokounmpo had a double-double with 28 points, 10 rebounds along with seven assists with most of his scoring coming when Horford wasn’t defending him. 

Horford, whose defensive dexterity has led to him defending talented bigs like Joel Embiid to perimeter-oriented, highly-skilled bigs like Sixers Ben Simmons and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.

But Antetokounmpo presented the ultimate challenge for Horford, with the Greek Freak coming in having scored at least 30 points in each of Milwaukee’s first four games. 

However, the Bucks showed they were more than just a one-man show in the second quarter with contributions coming from several players. Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning rookie of the year, had 10 first-half points to help the Bucks rally from a double-digit deficit to lead Boston 44-43 at the half. 

The Celtics had a chance at the very end to go ahead, but a desperation 3-point heave by Marcus Smart hit the back of the rim and bounced out as time expired.

Milwaukee’s first-half momentum carried over into the third quarter as they pushed their lead up to 59-52 following a 3-pointer by Khris Middleton which led to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens calling a time-out with 7:03 to play in the quarter. 

Boston’s offense began to bog down in part because it became more predictable with Kyrie Irving and Horford being the only reliable sources scoring points for Boston. 

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who had a historically awesome performance in Boston’s 110-89 win over New York on Tuesday, struggled mightily most of the first half as they combined to miss 10 of their 11 shot attempts. 

Boston fell behind 59-52, but went on a 13-4 run fueled by back-to-back corner 3’s by Horford.

The Bucks would regain the lead courtesy of some nice moves around the rim by Greg Monroe, but the Celtics continued to stay within striking distance with the quarter ending with Boston ahead 72-69 following a buzzer-beating basket from Al Horford as time expired.

Boston’s lead was down to 84-78 following a 3-pointer by Tony Snell, leading Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to call a time-out with 5:51 to play. 

The Celtics came out of the time-out and got a 3-pointer from Horford with Boston’s control of the game never being an issue afterward.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

BOSTON – Let’s face it. The way the Boston Celtics’ second unit has shot the ball this season, somebody was due for a breakout performance.
On Friday night it was Terry Rozier who scored a career-high 23 points in helping Boston get back on a winning track with a 118-103 victory that wasn’t anywhere close to what the final score might indicate.
Boston had five players reach double figures scoring, but arguably the most significant one of the bunch was Rozier.
A 33.7 percent shooter from the field and just 32.6 percent on 3’s this season, Rozier was Jacuzzi-hot from the floor on Saturday, connecting on 8-of-11 shots from the field along with five made 3-pointers.
While Rozier isn’t known as a lethal shooter, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ confidence in Rozier as a shooter remained strong heading into the game regardless of what his shooting percentage might suggest.
“Law of averages will play themselves out with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good shooter; made some big ones in a lot of different games this year. We want him to be ready to fire when he catches it.”
And he was on Friday, providing the kind of offensive punch that Boston’s second unit desperately needs more of this season.
“Any way you put it, I’m going to keep shooting,” Rozier said. “I’m going to keep playing. I’m not perfect. I’m going to have tough games. I’ll have games like this.
Rozier added, “It feels good to get points as a unit, and like said you just want to keep building off of it, and not lose sight of our team mantra, which is playing defense.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando.
Kyrie Irving

Despite playing in just the first three quarters, Irving still did plenty of damage in leading all scorers with 30 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting while also tallying four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Terry Rozier

The bench has come under heat lately for a lack of production. Rozier showed the second unit does have some life offensively as he lit the Magic up for a career-high 23 points which included five made 3-pointers which was also a career-high.
Al Horford

His ability to play the role of a facilitator was on display early on Friday night as he tallied seven of his game-high 10 assists in the first quarter.
Nikola Vucevic

There wasn’t a lot to cheer about for the Magic, but that shouldn’t take away from what was a solid game for Vucevic who had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Orlando’s desire to “play tough”

Before the game, the Magic talked about the need to be a more physical, tougher team. And after getting pummeled by the Celtics for most of Friday night’s game, the need to be tougher was once again the narrative of choice.

“Show more toughness; show more fight,” said Magic head coach Frank Vogel after the loss.

“We weren’t physical enough,” said Orlando’s Terrence Ross.

“Just not being physical enough, not being tough enough defensively, way too comfortable” was how Magic forward Aaron Gordon described his team’s play. It’s great that they recognize what’s clearly an area of weakness. Up next? Do something other than talk about it.


Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

BOSTON – Well, so much for the Boston Celtics being hungover following their first loss in more than a month.
If anything, the loss at Miami on Wednesday served as a wake-up call for the Celtics to avoid easing their way into games.
Because the Celtics jumped on the Magic early and never lost control of the game as they cruised to a 118-103 win.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 30 points while Terry Rozier came off the Celtics bench to score a career-high 23 points. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (8-11) with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
After leading by as many as 32 points, the Magic opened the fourth quarter against Boston’s backups, with a 13-3 run that cut Boston’s lead to 102-82.
The Magic would score six of the game’s next eight points before Rozier drained a much-needed 3-pointer that increased Boston’s lead to 107-88 with 6:48 to play.
Following an Orlando timeout, Boston continued to play with a huge lead and in doing so, got a big, bounce-back win.
One of the issues Boston was having, even during the 16-game winning streak, was that they didn’t get off to the greatest starts evident by them trailing by double digits in the first half of each of their previous four games prior to tonight’s game.
But that would not be the case tonight; not even close actually.
Leading 22-19 in the first, Boston went on an 18-7 run to take a commanding 40-26 lead
The 40 points scored were the most they tallied in the first quarter of a game this season.
And while the points weren’t as abundant in the second quarter, Boston’s dominance was just as great.
On this night, the Celtics were an equal opportunity destroyer.
Kyrie Irving had a very Kyrie Irving kind of night with 17 points in the first half.
The Celtics also got an unexpected boost from its bench, led by Rozier who had 13 points in the first half.
It seemed no matter who Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, it was a given that they would have a positive impact on this night.
Meanwhile, the Magic could muster up little fight or resistance as Boston’s lead peaked at 28 points (68-40) before the half ended with Boston in charge with a commanding 73-47 lead.
It’s rare for a team to have such a commanding halftime lead, the kind of lead that makes a team oh-so-vulnerable to a second-half letup.
Not the Celtics; not tonight at least.
Boston continued to play with a purpose; to not just win but do so in an emphatic, consistently dominant fashion.
Sporting a lead of 20-plus points throughout the third quarter, Boston went into the fourth quarter leading 99-69.