Celtics hold off Bucks in overtime, take 1-0 series lead

Celtics hold off Bucks in overtime, take 1-0 series lead

BOSTON – In a season when very little has gone according to script, a likely game-winner in regulation for the Boston Celtics was not to be after the Milwaukee Bucks – with only 0.5 seconds to play – got a desperation heave that tied things up to force overtime.

It was only fitting that the Celtics would open the postseason with a game in which victory was in hand, then lost, and then recovered as Terry Rozier iced the 113-107 victory by making three free throws in the final 13 seconds of overtime. 

Rozier (23 points) was one of five double-figure scorers for Boston, led by Al Horford’s double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds. 

Boston now leads Milwaukee 1-0 in their best-of-seven series with Game 2 at the TD Garden on Tuesday.

The Celtics felt they had the game won after Rozier drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds to play in regulation that gave Boston a 99-96 lead. 

But the Bucks came right back following a time-out, as Khris Middleton drilled a desperation 3-ball as time expired. Middleton had 31 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 35 points and 13 rebounds.

The two teams went back and forth in the overtime session, with Boston taking control – sort of – after a driving lay-up by Tatum made it a 108-105 game with 1:22 to play.

But the Bucks weren’t done. 

They had a chance to take the lead after a Tatum turnover at a time when Boston was clinging to a 108-106 lead. 

But Milwaukee failed to score and ultimately had to foul Rozier with 18.8 seconds to play. 

He made both free throws which put the Celtics up by four points.

But his biggest play came with 13 seconds to play when he grabbed a rebound and was fouled by Antetokounmpo which was the Greek Freak’s sixth personal foul – an automatic ejection. 

Boston’s two young up-and-coming stars, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, were particularly effective getting their offense going around the rim. Brown had 20 points while Tatum had a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 spurt which included Tatum whipping a pass to a cutting Brown who snatched the past inside the paint and quickly turned around for a short lay-up leading to a Bucks timeout but more important, put Boston ahead 76-68.

Boston would eventually take a double-digit lead (86-76) following a Marcus Morris put-back dunk off his own miss. 

But the Bucks bounced back with six straight, cutting Boston’s lead down to 86-82 with 3:11 to play which led to a Brad Stevens time-out.

Boston missed 16 of its 20 shot attempts in the second quarter, the kind of offensive struggles that would bury most teams. 

But the Bucks could only build a 47-44 lead at the half despite all those bricks tossed up by the Celtics. 

Never had a three-point deficit looked so good. 

Because the Celtics knew going into the half that the game should not have been that close, not how they were shooting anyway. 

It was a tribute to their defense which, while not dominant, certainly was good enough to keep the Bucks from running away with the game even as their lead spilled into the double-digit realm only for the Celtics to claw back into the game with some timely stops and turnovers converted into scores in the final minutes of the second quarter.


Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

File photo

Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton knows what’s at stake so there’s no need to sugarcoat or downplay the significance of tonight’s Game 6 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“Just win or go home,” Middleton said. “You can’t leave nothing on the line.”

Boston will come into tonight’s game with a similar approach, aware that regardless of what happens in Game 6, they will live to see another game at the TD Garden on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. They could play Game 7 against Milwaukee or Game 1 of the second round against Philadelphia.

But the Celtics will tell you the sooner they can put away this Bucks team, the better off they’ll be. 

At this point in the series, there are no true surprises for either team.


“Fifth time playing each other, you’re gonna know each other’s game pretty well by now,” said Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova. “So it’s definitely some things we can do better, and we’ll execute better in game six.”

Like most playoff series, adjustments have a way of often being the difference between winning and losing. 

Milwaukee struck first by inserting Malcolm Brogdan into the starting lineup from Game 3 on, to replace Tony Snell who has struggled shooting the ball (29.4 percent) most of this series. And a back injury to John Henson afforded more playing time to ex-Celtic Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker, with the latter having dominant performances in Games 3 and 4, but being a non-factor in Boston’s Game 5 win which gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

Boston has since countered with Marcus Smart making his playoff debut this season in Game 5 after being out six weeks with a right thumb injury, while Semi Ojeleye got his first NBA start in Boston’s Game 5 win as well. 

“It made it a little bit easier for us (defensively),” said Jaylen Brown, referring to Ojeleye’s first NBA start. “Because we can switch . . . we’re all the same. That made it a lot easier for us.”

"It’s gonna come down to who owns their space, who wants it the most and who’s gonna fight for it,” Brown said. “All that X’s and O’s and stuff  . . . it’s gonna come down to that (who wants it, fights for it more) at the end of the day.”

Terry Rozier added, “It’s gonna be a dog fight but we look to come out on top.”


Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

MILWAUKEE -- The NBA’s two-minute report from Boston’s 92-87 Game 5 win on Tuesday confirmed what many thought at the time: A 3-point heave by Al Horford with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 84-79 was not released prior to the 24-second shot clock expiring, and the Bucks should have been awarded the ball.
Following the game, Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty was vocal in his belief that the officials made a mistake in not calling a 24-second violation. The lead official, Ken Mauer, told a pool reporter that the play was not reviewable because Horford missed the shot. Had he made it, the referees could have reviewed it.
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes into the basket,” Mauer said.
Prunty understood the reason for the refusal to review the play, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. 
The Bucks were focused on getting the ball back and, trailing 84-79, would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about a minute to play. The call didn't cost Milwaukee any points, even though the Celtics successfully rebounded Horford's miss and retained possession; Marcus Morris subsequently missed a shot. Still, Boston was able to take about 20 seconds off the clock.

“That was a huge stop to get in Game 5 of a playoff series where both teams are putting everything on the line,” Prunty said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s a tough time to have a missed call. I know for me, I had a great view of it. So what I thought was a shot-clock violation was not called.”

In Sunday's Game 4, the NBA said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton should have been called for fouling Jaylen Brown with less than a minute to play as Brown drove to the basket attempting to extend Boston's 100-99 lead. Instead Brown lost the ball and the Bucks eventuallly pulled out a 104-102 victory.
That specific call was one of 15 made by the officials in the final two minutes of play. Of the calls made, the other 14 were correct calls or correct non-calls upon review.