Jaylen Brown scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half, and the Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks 109-86 on Tuesday night to even their second-round playoff at one game apiece.
Brown shook off a dismal shooting night in Game 1, going 9 for 10 in the first half, including 5 for 5 from the 3-point line. Jayson Tatum added 19 points and eight assists. Al Horford had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The series doesn't resume until Game 3 on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Boston finished 20 of 43 from beyond the arc. The Celtics played without point guard Marcus Smart after he was ruled out before the game with a bruised right thigh he sustained in Game 1. Derrick White took his place in the starting lineup, making his first start in a playoff game since 2019 when he was with San Antonio.
The Celtics clamped down on Giannis Antetokounmpo after his triple-double in the series opener, limiting him to 28 points — mostly in the third quarter — nine rebounds and seven assists. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and seven assists. Bobby Portis chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Bucks cut into what had been a 26-point Celtics lead in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo keyed the charge with 18 points in the period. A 10-0 Milwaukee run, aided by a more than five-minute Celtics scoring drought, trimmed Boston’s lead to 72-56 late in the third quarter.
But Boston outscored the Bucks 11-10 the rest of the period to take an 83-66 advantage into the fourth.
Milwaukee kept nibbling away and got it down it to 94-82 on a pair of free throws by Antetokounmpo, followed by a 3 by Tatum.
The lead was back up to 101-86 when Antetokounmpo was stripped underneath the basket, leading to another 3 from Tatum.
Holiday missed a 3 on the other end and Grant Williams dropped his own on the ensuing fast break to make it 107-86 with 1:52 left.
With Smart looking in street clothes from the bench, the Celtics scored the game’s first seven points on their way to taking an 18-3 lead and forcing a quick timeout by the Bucks.
Boston scored from a variety of different spots on the court during the run – attacking both at the rim and inside the paint. It also included 12 points from the 3-point line, where the Celtics struggled for most of Game 1.
Antetokounmpo missed his first six shots of the night before finally getting on the scoreboard via a dunk with less than a minute left in the opening period.
It didn’t stop Boston from banking a 32-21 lead heading into the second quarter, boosted by 17 points from Brown –a career playoff-high for a quarter.
The Celtics continued to share and kept Milwaukee’s defense in chase mode, eventually taking a 65-40 edge into the half.
Bucks: Unsuccessfully challenged a loose ball foul on Antetokounmpo in the fourth quarter. … Portis was called for a flagrant 1 foul on Horford in the third quarter. … Antetokounmpo was 2 for 12 from the field in the first half. … Milwaukee had nine turnovers in the first half.
Celtics: Tatum was whistled for a technical for arguing a call in the fourth quarter. … Finished 13 of 20 from 3 in the first half... Were unsuccessful in challenging blocking foul called on White in the second quarter, his third foul. … Boston scored 15 points off Milwaukee’s turnovers in the opening 24 minutes.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Smart experienced some swelling, pain and restricted movement over the past two days. But the expectation is for him to be ready in time for Game 3.
“I don’t think it’s long-term,” Udoka said. “With three days off we’re assuming he’ll be OK.”