Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will look to swing homecourt advantage back in Boston’s favor when the Celtics hit the road to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday afternoon in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Tatum and Brown led the charge for the Celtics in Game 2, combining for 59 points and 14 assists in a 109-86 win on Tuesday to even the series at a game each.
Brown went for 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, while Tatum trailed close behind with 29, while going 10 of 20 from the field. Grant Williams also played a vital role off the bench, supplying 21 points, while going on 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
Boston also will be looking to continue its dominance from distance, after draining 20 shots from deep in Game 2, the most made 3-pointers in franchise playoff history.
“We talked about being 32-8 in the last 40 (games) and not losing two games in a row, coming out with the proper effort after losses,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We expected our guys to respond like they did (Tuesday).”
Boston can now take its first advantage of the series and will have the chance to do so with its best defender returning to the lineup. Marcus Smart, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is expected to be back for Game 3.
Smart was out Tuesday with a thigh contusion after finishing with 10 points and six assists in a 101-89 Game 1 loss.
Derrick White started for Smart in Game 2 but was held scoreless through 28 minutes. Despite the 6-foot-4 guard’s scoring woes, the Celtics were 22 points better than the Bucks when White was on the floor.
While Boston is looking to ride its momentum, the Bucks are looking to find the cracks in a defense that held them to their season low in points during Game 2.
Milwaukee shot just 16.7 percent from 3-point range (3 of 18) and committed 16 turnovers, which translated to 24 Boston points. Giannis Antetokounmpo got off to a slow start with just five points on 2-of-12 shooting in the first half.
Antetokounmpo said that the level of physicality the Celtics have brought in the series is something he is used to, but it has made it harder to distribute.
“I’ve seen it pretty much my whole career,” Antetokounmpo said. “The only thing might be it’s kind of tougher to find your teammate because the pass has got to be late, but that’s pretty much it.”
The two-time MVP finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists on 11-of-27 shooting.
Jrue Holiday chipped in 19 points and seven assists for the Bucks, while Bobby Portis and reserve Pat Connaughton each added 13 points.
The Bucks will still be without Khris Middleton, who is expected to miss the entirety of the series with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. George Hill is also out with an abdomen injury.
In the wake of the injuries, Connaughton has provided meaningful bench minutes through the first two games. Connaughton has averaged 10.5 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 69.2 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range.
A win on Saturday would mark the Celtics’ first in Milwaukee this season after they dropped both regular-season contests on the Bucks’ home floor.
–Field Level Media