Celtics

Celtics vs. Bucks highlights: Marcus Smart looks strong, but C's come up short

Celtics vs. Bucks highlights: Marcus Smart looks strong, but C's come up short

FINAL SCORE: Bucks 119, Celtics 112

IN BRIEF: The Celtics overcame an early 15-point deficit and made it a tight game in the second half, but they were unable to complete the comeback vs. the Bucks. Jayson Tatum struggled mightily going 2-for-18 from the field (5 points) while Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton contributed 36 and 18 points respectively.

On the bright side for Boston, Kemba Walker's knee didn't appear to be an issue as he contributed 16 points in 19 minutes. Jaylen Brown had 22 points, Gordon Hayward put up 17, and Marcus Smart was the star for the C's with 23 points off the bench.

CELTICS RECORD: 43-22 (0-1 in seeding round)

HIGHLIGHTS

Walker drills first C's bucket in four months

Smart for 3

Kemba from downtown

Smart --> Theis

Wanamaker makes the tough shot

Jaylen slams it home

Kemba looking healthy

Theis = nice

C's take the lead

Smart doing Smart things

Clutch 3 from Jaylen

UP NEXT:
Vs. Trail Blazers, Sunday, 3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Boston
Vs. Miami Heat, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Boston
Vs. Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Boston

Between Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, this shamrock is a 'three-leaf closer'

Between Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, this shamrock is a 'three-leaf closer'

Kemba Walker, having reached his nightly minutes restriction, was standing at the back of Boston’s three-tier bench when Jaylen Brown took a feed from Jayson Tatum and buried a game-clinching 3-pointer in the final minute of Sundays’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Walker, a towel slung around his neck, raised his right hand in the air and simply reveled in the moment, all while the rest of Boston’s bench spilled onto the floor in celebration during the timeout that followed.

"They’re special. They’re special,” Walker said after Boston escaped with a 128-124 triumph for their first bubble victory of the restart. Tatum finished with a team-high 34 points, a fresh haircut both restoring his scoring prowess and giving him newfound assist superpowers. All while Brown scored 16 of his 30 points in the final frame.

"In order for us to be a great team, those two guys are going to have to go at it every night, they’re going to have to balance off each other,” added Walker. "They’re gonna have to love each other. Because their talent level is unreal. And it just takes our team to different heights when they’re playing basketball at that kind of level.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Walker might have been a spectator for the frenetic final frame but he was spectacular for the second straight game and — we’ll stress it here again — nothing is more important for the Celtics than Walker looking more like the All-Star talent we saw at the start of the 2019-20 season. Given all the consternation about his knee, it’s still jarring just how crisp he’s looked in these games.

Walker finished with 14 points in 22 minutes, making five of six shots including both 3-pointers he attempted. Walker continues to look speedy and shifty, the only sign of an issue with his left knee being the minute restriction that Stevens refuses to budge from even as the Celtics endure a couple nailbiters to start these seeding games.

But what’s also encouraging for the Celtics’ playoff hopes is that, even when Walker isn’t on the court, Tatum and Brown can embrace the stage as they did. Walker’s health is of utmost importance once the postseason arrives, but the Celtics having three players that are eager and willing to take over down the stretch — and Gordon Hayward has been excellent in these two games, too — is quite the luxury that will force opponents to pick their playoff poison.

Like a shamrock, call this a three-leaved closer.

The Celtics have yearned in recent years to have multiple options they can lean on in crunch time, a variety of scorers who prevent opponents from clamping down on one focal point.

It’s no surprise based on what they’ve accomplished that Brown and Tatum can thrive in the moment. It’s simply the prospects of having all three healthy for a postseason run that makes Boston a legitimate threat.

Especially when they can pull out a quality win against a win-or-go-home opponent like the Blazers.

"We definitely missed Kemba out there, for sure,” said Brown. "Kemba is a leader and he gives us a balance to our team that we desperately need. We shouldn't have had to get into a close game. We feel like that's a part of our growth as well as a team.

"You got to be able to carry the team with the guys out on the court, between me, Jayson, Gordon and whoever else is out there. Just continue to take the next step as basketball players but also as thinkers of the game, start seeing the game, understanding the game and making the right plays.”

Tatum and Brown nearly willed an injury-filled Celtics roster to the Finals two years ago. Even with the East deeper with talent, Boston’s ceiling is higher based on their improvements of Brown and Tatum, plus the All-Star talent they should have beside them.

“We’re young guys, but we have a decent amount of playoff experience. We’ve been in some big games and some big moments,” said Tatum. "And two very extremely confident guys that want to be out there, want to make big plays.”

Walker wanted to be out there, too. But he’s not pushing his luck. He knows Stevens is not having any of it.

"Brad is not putting me back in,” said Walker. "Doesn’t matter the kind of emotions I’ve got. He’s not going over the restriction limit. It don’t matter. My best bet is to stay positive, cheer my teammates on to the best of my ability, and that’s what I try to do — stay engaged into the game.”

And it’s a lot easier to embrace the sideline when there’s players like Brown and Tatum keeping the team afloat.

Celtics vs. Trail Blazers overreactions: Jaylen Brown the new 'King in the Fourth'?

Celtics vs. Trail Blazers overreactions: Jaylen Brown the new 'King in the Fourth'?

The Boston Celtics bounced back from Friday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with a 128-124 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

It was a huge day for Jayson Tatum (34 points), who shot a woeful 2-for-18 from the field on Friday. Jaylen Brown (30 points) came up big when it mattered most, and Gordon Hayward added 22 points and eight rebounds of his own.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Here are a few instant overreactions from the C's first victory of the season restart:

1. Jaylen Brown is the Celtics' new "King in the Fourth'.

Verdict: Overreaction

Brown is the main reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Trail Blazers in the second half as he made clutch shot after clutch shot and tallied 16 points in the fourth quarter alone.

This isn't Brown's first time stepping up when it matters most. Brown has proven time and time again that when the game is on the line, he's capable of propelling his team to victory.

So is it time to crown him the new "King in the Fourth"? Well, as great as Brown has been in crunch time, ex-Celtic Isaiah Thomas and C's guard Kemba Walker might have something to say about that.

Thomas didn't take too kindly to Walker being declared the new "King in the Fourth" earlier this season, and you can bet Walker wishes he had the chance to step up in this game. If not for his minutes restriction, we very well could be writing about Walker's heroics rather than Brown's.

We'll have to at least wait until the playoffs before we officially crown a king.

2. The real Jayson Tatum has returned.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

We don't know who that was going 2-for-18 in the Celtics' loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, but that wasn't Jayson Tatum.

The real Tatum showed up Sunday afternoon, putting up 34 points with eight assists and four rebounds.

This is the kind of performance C's fans have come to expect from Tatum, who showed he was on the verge of superstardom before the NBA season was suspended in March. It's the version of Tatum that Boston will need if it's to make a deep run in the playoffs.

As for what helped Tatum turn things around in his second game of the restart? We credit the adorable Deuce Tatum for being his good luck charm.

3. Near-collapse in second half is worrisome going forward.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics were cruising and had a 24-point lead in this game, but C's fans have come to learn this season that no lead is truly comfortable.

Sure enough, the Trail Blazers stormed back to even take the lead at one point in the second half. Thankfully, great fourth-quarter play from Brown and Tatum allowed Boston to hold on.

As nice as it was to earn the first victory in the Orlando bubble, nearly blowing such a sizable lead definitely left a sour taste in the mouths of Celtics fans. It isn't worth worrying about, however, as there wasn't much the C's could do about Portland's barrage of deep 3-pointers in the third and fourth quarters.

Boston can't make these near-collapses a trend heading into the playoffs, but there's no need to overreact to Sunday's sequence of events.