BOSTON -- The Celtics are four wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
That statement would have seemed ridiculous in late January when Boston was the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference at 23-24. But the Celtics’ improbable turnaround continued Sunday, as Grant Williams' historic performance powered a 109-81 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the East semifinals at TD Garden.
Williams scored a career-high 27 points and tied an NBA Game 7 record with seven made 3-pointers on 18 attempts. Jayson Tatum added 23 points on 7 of 14 shooting along with eight assists, while Jaylen Brown tallied 19 points and Marcus Smart dropped a game-high 10 assists.
The victory advances Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons. The C's will face the No. 1 seed Miami Heat, with Game 1 set for Tuesday.
Here are our takeaways from a thrilling win at TD Garden:
Batman to the rescue
The Bucks apparently had no interest in guarding Grant Williams at the 3-point line, and early on, that strategy worked. Williams made just two of his first seven 3-point attempts as the Bucks kept it close early on.
Milwaukee kept leaving Williams open, however, and he eventually made them pay, making five of his final 11 attempts to finish 7 of 18 from distance.
Williams' 18 3-point attempts are a new record for a Game 7, shattering Stephen Curry's record of 15 attempts.
The Bucks were wise to try to take the ball out of Tatum and Brown's hands, but Williams was an excellent 3-point shooter during the regular season (41.1 percent), so they were playing with fire letting Williams get this many open looks -- and he burned them.
Live by the three
It wasn't just Williams knocking down outside shots for Boston.
The Celtics poured in 22 3-pointers on 55 attempts, breaking their own playoff record they set in Game 1 of the series. Tatum went 5 of 9 from deep, while Payton Pritchard came off the bench to hit 4 of 6 3-pointers and give the C's a huge spark in the second half.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, was ice-cold from three, making just four of its 33 3-pointers (12.1 percent) to give Boston a 66-12 scoring edge on outside shots.
The Celtics both won and lost games in this series on their 3-point shooting, but they didn't stray from their game plan -- and it eventually won them the series.
Help wanted for Giannis
The Bucks shot 15.8 percent from three (3 for 19) in the first half yet only trailed by five after two quarters, and they have their superstar to thank.
Antetokounmpo scored or assisted on Milwaukee's first 24 points and nearly had a triple-double by halftime.
The Bucks star seemed to run out of gas in the second half, though, finishing with a series-low 25 points on 10 of 26 shooting. The absence of Khris Middleton was apparent for Milwaukee throughout the series but particularly in Game 7, as the Bucks couldn't find consistent scoring outside Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday (21 points).
While Antetokounmpo had a historic series (see below), the Celtics deserve a ton of credit for wearing him down over the course of seven games.
No time for Time Lord
Ime Udoka wasn't kidding when he said Robert Williams was available to play on an "as needed" basis in Game 7.
The Celtics big man didn't see any floor time despite being active for the first time since Game 3. There were times earlier in the contest where Boston could have used Williams on the boards, but as the C's extended their lead in the second half, it didn't make sense to have him play and risk reaggravating his left knee.
Boston will face a stiff challenge next round in Bam Adebayo and the Heat, so Williams could use all the rest he can get.