Celtics survive Bucks onslaught in Smart's return, win 92-87
Marcus Smart's return was in a positively electric environment, with the Garden so loud it must have been shaking.
The Boston Celtics won the tip, on got on the board first after former Celtic big man Tyler Zeller fouled Al Horford. It looked like the Milwaukee Bucks might pull away early, but Boston quickly pulled themselves together against the early Bucks attack.
Smart checked in at the four minute mark of the first, and was almost immediately impactful in a close game, tied up at 13. Marcus scored his first points since returning just two minutes later, grabbing an and-1, and a trey by Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris pushed the lead to 15-23 shortly before the end of the frame.
Kris Middleton opened the second frame with a crafty make over Aron Baynes, but Morris answered right back, getting himself to the line. Middleton and Eric Bledsoe chipped away at the lead, but Mook kept countering, keeping Boston's cushion intact. Horford scored on an oop with 5:30 to play to give the Celts a 27-37 lead, and Jaylen Brown got on the board shortly afterward with a three of his own.
A trey by Jayson Tatum at the 4:20 mark was the spark Boston needed to force a timeout for a Bucks team settling for bad shots and allowing the ball to stick with a largely neutralized Giannis Antetokounmpo, putting the Cs up 43-29. Horford, Smart and Semi Ojeleye ballooned the lead to 16 in the waning moments of the first, but Jabari Parker and Giannis managed to trim the lead to 11 to close out the half 48-37 Celtics.
The second half opened with Bledsoe heading to the line, answered by a three from Horford. Then things got chippy between Rozier and Bledsoe, with a bevvy of technical fouls being assessed all around, with the score being 53-40 before Scary Terry got his revenge with a three that brought the garden to its feet. Shabazz Muhammad and Jabari Parker cut the lead to just four with under four to play in the third.
Horford and Brown stopped the bleeding, however, with Jaylen forcing a timeout and putting Boston up 68-57 with a trey at just over two minutes left in the third quarter. Maker and Parker trimmed the lead to four quickly to start the final frame, with Boston leading 72-68 at a little past the nine-minute mark. Mook and Al protected the lead, though, nailing a deuce and a three to put Boston up nine.
Giannis and Bledsoe trimmed the lead back to just four with a little more than three to go, but a trip to the charity stripe and a layup later, Jaylen pushed the cushion back to seven with just under two to play. Middleton managed a jumper to cut it to five, with both teams missing shots on the final possessions, and Maker raking Rozier's face on a closeout. Boston managed to maintain possession with 35 seconds left in the game, calling time out to prepare their play.
Horford scored on a quick layup on a Smart assist somehow pulled out of a scrum on the floor in true Smart form, forcing Milwaukee to call a timeout of their own. The game then turned into a free throw fiesta, with the Bucks using fouls to try and slow down the end of the game. Rozier and Horford took care of business down the stretch, however, and Boston won 92-87 to take a 3-2 series lead.
The Celtics next face the Bucks at home this Thursday, April 26th at a time to be determined. For more stories by Justin, click here.