Celtics

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.

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Brad Stevens visits Red Sox camp and reflects on Boston coaching fraternity

Brad Stevens visits Red Sox camp and reflects on Boston coaching fraternity

If Boston were a college campus, the hottest fraternity to join right now would be the coaching one. The chapter president, of course, is Bill Belichick, but right behind him in the ranks are Brad Stevens and Alex Cora.

Which is why for the second year in a row Stevens made his way to Fort Meyers to watch batting practice and bullpen sessions while picking the brains of his Red Sox equivalent Alex Cora and FOB (friend of Bill), Tony LaRussa.

“It’s one of the great benefits of being the Celtics coach. You get a chance to meet these people and learn a great deal from them,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s those guys or {Bill} Belichick or Bruce {Cassidy} or whoever. We’re really blessed to have a lot of people to pick the minds of in Boston.”

The way Stevens sees things, he learns as much or more from the men who lead teams in sports other than basketball. 

“You are all dealing with the same things on a day to day basis. The challenges of a team. The challenges of being the best that you can be.”

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Cora views the opportunity in a similar light. He feels he can learn a little something from everyone that in turn makes his job a little easier in a tough market like Boston. 

A place that becomes a lot tougher when you aren’t cruising to a team record 108 wins in the regular season and a World Series title. 

“It’s not that I’m expecting them, {bad stretches} but when it comes, I know how the city reacts to it,” Cora explained, “and how the media reacts to it. It’s a good learning experience.”

Although Cora marveled at how Bill Belichick can stand in front of a room of reporters and say almost nothing, Cora conceded with a laugh he doesn’t quite have that clout yet.

“I can’t do it yet with you guys,” Cora admitted, “But it’s pretty cool he is the way he is with the media. But then you talk to him and he’s a real person and he’s funny and obviously very smart.”

At the end of the day both Cora and Stevens understand that every coach and manager in town is aiming for the same thing. 

“I think that ultimately we all want to improve,” Stevens said. “We all want to get better.”

CELTICS NOTES

Stevens also touched on a few basketball topics on Sunday afternoon. 

On Jayson Tatum’s All-Star Game Challenge win:

“Yeah, he made a big shot, from deep. That challenge always seems to come to down to whether you make that shot or not. Jayson did a great job finishing it with a little flair. That’s what the All-Star game is all about.”

Anthony Davis comments:

“I can’t talk about all that stuff. As far as just generally in regards to rumors, we do talk about as a team, focusing on what we can control. Danny does a great job of handling all that.”

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2019 NBA All-Star Game live stream: Watch Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis online

2019 NBA All-Star Game live stream: Watch Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis online

The world's best basketball players have come to Charlotte for Sunday night's 2019 NBA All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center.

Team LeBron, led by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, will take on Team Giannis, captained by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. These All-Star rosters were made fantasy draft style for the second consecutive year and should make for an exciting, competitive matchup.

Kyrie Irving is the lone Boston Celtics player on the All-Star squads. He was drafted by his former teammate, James, for the second year in a row. Irving scored 13 points with nine assists and seven rebounds in last year's game as Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 148-145 in Los Angeles.

Sunday's contest will mark the sixth career All-Star appearance for the Celtics point guard. Irving won the game's MVP award in 2014 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here's how to watch the 2019 NBA All-Star Game online.

When: Sunday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream: NBA on TNT

Click to view best All-Star performances in Celtics history

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.