After an ugly offensive performance in a Game 1 loss over the weekend, the Boston Celtics entered Tuesday’s Game 2 against the Milwaukee Bucks with a sense of urgency. If nothing else, the Celtics could not afford to drop the first two games at home and, with 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart ruled out of action with a thigh contusion before tip-off, Boston had little margin for error. The Celtics responded in kind, however, building a 25-point halftime lead and the advantage wire-to-wire in a 109-86 win.
Boston’s offense was the culprit of its issues in the series opener, but that was not in the case at the outset in Game 2. The Celtics zoomed to an 18-3 run at the outset and dominated on both ends of the floor. Milwaukee opened by missing ten of its first eleven shots, including six straight misses from Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Boston held Milwaukee to only three points in more than six minutes.
The Celtics connected on six of their first seven attempts from three-point range and, after an uneven performance in Game 1, Jaylen Brown wasted no time asserting himself. Brown scored 17 points in the first quarter, setting a new playoff career high in the process, and he is connected on six of his first seven shots.
Milwaukee’s offense finally came to life in the latter portion of the first quarter, but Boston still held an 11-point lead after 12 minutes, largely as a result of 75 percent three-point shooting. The Celtics then produced a 10-4 run to begin the second quarter, taking a 17-point lead. In addition to stellar defense, Brown remained hot with yet another three-pointer, and Boston was rolling downhill.
Ultimately, the Celtics led by 25 points at the break, with Milwaukee kicking the ball around with seven turnovers in the second quarter. Boston took advantage of that carelessness, with Brown continuing to lead a prolific offense. He finished with 25 points in the first half, making nine of ten shots and all five of his three-pointers, and Boston shot 13-for-20 from three-point range with 17 assists.
The Bucks did bring additional intensity to begin the third quarter in an attempt to narrow the margin. After a nightmare first half, Antetokounmpo scored 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second half, fueling the Bucks on offense. In addition, Milwaukee held Boston to only seven points in the first seven and a half minutes, and a 10-0 run brought the Bucks within 16 points.
Boston managed to dodge the haymaker from Milwaukee, however, keeping a 17-point lead at the end of the third quarter. While Milwaukee shot 60 percent in the period and Antetokounmpo scored 18 points on his own, the Bucks committed seven turnovers, and the Celtics rescued things offensively down the stretch of the quarter, headlined by Jayson Tatum.
Most of the fourth quarter was a slog, with seemingly unending official reviews and a general lack of flow. Boston kept control amid the drudgery, though the Bucks slowly climbed within 12 at 94-82 with 4:30 to go. However, the closing kick was around the corner for the Celtics, with Boston using an 8-0 run and back-to-back three-pointers from Tatum and Grant Williams to end any threat from Milwaukee.
Though much of the damage was done in the opening minutes from the Celtics, it was an impressive bounce-back effort on the whole, and Boston never trailed in the game. Brown and Tatum combined for 59 points on efficient shooting, and Grant Williams added six three-pointers, 21 points, and high-end defense. As a team, the Celtics shot 20-for-43 from three-point range, and with Milwaukee shooting only 3-for-18 from beyond the arc, the math swung toward Boston.
For the Bucks, there is solace to be taken in the unsustainable nature of the three-point margin in this game. However, Antetokounmpo hasn’t been able to find efficiency in the series, and Milwaukee generated only 16 assists compared to 17 turnovers. The series will now shift back to Milwaukee, though, and both teams will be well-rested after an unusual three-day break in advance of Saturday’s Game 3. That game could be pivotal in deciding the series, but the Celtics needed a win on Tuesday and they were able to secure one.