BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are on to the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs.
In the final installment of a fantastic first-round series, the Celtics defended home court and took down the Milwaukee Bucks in a 112-96 Game 7 win Saturday night at TD Garden.
A trio of starters led the way for Boston. Terry Rozier and Al Horford shined with 26 points apiece, while Jayson Tatum wasn’t far behind with 20.
Milwaukee’s loss was to no fault of its stars, as Khris Middleton (32 points), Eric Bledsoe (23 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (22 points) all had big nights.
With the win, the Celtics win the series 4-3, while the Bucks embark on summer vacation.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Al Horford
Both teams started out relatively slow off the tip, but while this trend continued for the Bucks throughout the first quarter, the Celtics flipped the switch in the second half of the frame and claimed a 30-17 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
Tatum carried the load on offense for the Celtics early on. While he only went 2-for-5 from the field, he made it to the charity stripe five times and buried all of his free throws. Boston also received a lift off the bench from Aron Baynes, who chipped in six first-quarter points, including this mid-range jumper that beat the horn.
The C’s as a team shot 57.9 percent from the field in the first, while the Bucks posted a lowly 35 percent clip.
WEATHER THE STORM
The Bucks responded with a strong punch after a weak first quarter, going on a 13-2 run to open the second to cut Boston’s lead to two. The C’s would recuperate, though, outscoring the visitors 18-12 the rest of the way to take a 50-42 lead into the break.
Horford powered the Celtics’ offense in the second with 10 points, two of which came on the back end of a great all-around play from Marcus Smart.
Rozier also had a strong frame for Boston with seven points after being limited to just two in the first. Bledsoe was the lone Bucks player to score in double figures in the first half with 12.
The C’s also received a bit of a scare from Brown, who exited the game with just over three minutes left in the quarter while favoring his upper-leg. The second-year swingman appeared to tell trainers he believed it was a cramp as he made his way back to the locker room.
THRIVING IN THE THIRD
The two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the third, but it was the Celtics who stayed consistent throughout the quarter. Boston hung 31 points in the frame to swell its advantage and take an 81-67 lead in the fourth.
For the second consecutive quarter, it was Horford who provided the spark. The veteran forward posted another 10-point quarter, while Tatum wasn’t far behind with seven. And after being held scoreless in the first half, Marcus Morris chipped in six points in the third, including this tough 3-pointer from the corner which got a rise out of TD Garden and the C’s bench.
Brown, meanwhile, did return to the Boston bench but did not see the floor again. The team announced he had a sore hamstring.
There would be no comeback for the Bucks on Saturday night. This time it was Rozier who would lead the charge for the green with 12 points in the final frame to put the nail in Milwaukee’s coffin. Middleton’s relentless attack kept the visitors in the game in the fourth, but it simply wasn’t enough.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tatum wasn’t satisfied with just a highlight-reel block.
The Celtics will take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, with Game 1 set for Monday night. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 8 p.m. ET.