The Celtics weren’t in top form after the trade deadline, but that didn’t stop Boston from playing with energy and intensity, beating the Milwaukee Bucks in a 122-114 victory Friday at the Fiserv Forum.
The Celtics dominated the game, only briefly giving up the lead to the Bucks. Boston pulled away in the third quarter as the triples kept coming in.
It was a balanced scoring effort for Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ team, led by Jayson Tatum, who had 34 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Marcus Smart (23 points), Kemba Walker (21 points, five assists) and Jaylen Brown (18 points, five rebounds) completed the production. The last member of the starting lineup, Robert Williams III, impressed in his first season opener.
It was a major victory for the Celtics, who improved to 22-23 and snapped Milwaukee’s eight-game win streak.
Boston finishes its five-game stretch in seven days, finally going through one last back-to-back. The Celtics will travel to face Oklahoma City at 9 pm Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Here are four takeaways from Boston’s big win over Milwaukee:
Robert Williams III begins: With Daniel Theis out and Tristan Thompson due to health and safety protocols, Stevens’ next natural choice was Williams, who made his first season start. Williams was on the court for 27 minutes, playing the best defensive basketball of his career. And just like Stevens said before the game, Williams can fill out the stat sheet. Williams finished with seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and five blocks, impacting the game in almost every way imaginable. The 23-year-old continues to demonstrate why he is part of the Celtics’ building blocks as he solidifies his case for the center of the future.
The triples kept falling: When the Celtics were running away with the game in the third quarter, they were out of their long-range shooting efforts. Boston apparently couldn’t miss in the third, hitting 9 of 14 from behind the arc. The Bucks had few responses as the Celtics built their lead. Boston finished 22 of 47 on 3s on Friday as outside shots continue to look potent (the franchise record is 24 3-pointers).
The energy shines as the Celtics increased their energy: Maybe it was a continuation of Wednesday’s late trade or the Celtics wanted to make a statement after the trade deadline. But Boston played at a remarkable pace that seemed comfortable but energetic. The boys were on the passing lanes when the Bucks finished with 16 turnovers. The defense took on Milwaukee’s offense, which ranks as one of the best in the nation. The Bucks made a lot of 3s, but they were only 25 of 52 (48.1%) in two. NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo also had consecutive slow games against the Celtics, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds on Friday.
Tacko’s first minutes, new faces: The Celtics were still acclimating their new pieces, so Stevens rolled with Tacko Fall as a backup center when Williams needed an early breather. Fall stood out in his 7-foot-5-inch frame, but he showed he’s still a bit green for consistent minutes. At the end of the game, Stevens even brought the newly acquired Moritz Wagner into the game. Wagner played 10 minutes and had three points and five rebounds in the debut of his C.