Brad Stevens' thoughts swirled towards the end of the first quarter. The more Milwaukee bombarded Kyrie Irving with pick-and-rolls, the more the Celtics' owner and his co-creator, Al Horford, found open shooters.
Jayson Tatum, the leading 3-point shooter in the NBA with 51.3 percent, 4 of 4 from the center in the first quarter. The Celtics built an eight-point lead.
"(The) first half was as good as the one we played offensively throughout the year," said the Celtics coach.
But Irving knows how the other shoe is going to fall after the Celtics' 111-100 triumph. on Milwaukee last night, his third consecutive victory and the fifth in his last six.
"I know Brad will say that, and (later) he will see the movie and we'll have more things we can improve on." said the Celtics point guard. "So that's the best thing about Brad being able to see what he sees there firsthand, and then being able to go back to the movies and see him again tomorrow." We simply improve constantly. It's encouraging. I think we've made some progress. Our defense took a step back and now we're just trying to find that balance and only be able to hold it for 40 minutes. "
The Celtics have often talked about how they felt on October 18, when they were 0-2 after a defeat to Milwaukee, they had lost Gordon Hayward for the season one night before, and in a sense they were still nervous.
But a loss like that is not easily forgotten, as this victory shows.
Irving led 55.1 Percent effort from the field with 32 points on 13 of 24 shots – No performance was as touching as Tatum's 17 points and 5 of 6 for the simple reason that the rookie made Milwaukee pay horribly for his excessive attention to Irving Tatum did not have a chance in the second half.
The Celtics had to deal with a different kind of pressure by then, including an eruption in the second half by Giannis Anteto. Kounmpo, who scored 22 of his 40 points after the break, including a third quarter of 16 points.
Although they were pushed on the defensive by Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton (19 points) and Eric Bledsoe (18), the Celtics overcame the threat with a great offensive balance of their own.
Horford, 8 of 10 from the floor by 20 points, simply missed a triple-double with nine rebounds and eight badists.
"We are very different," Horford said of the changes that have occurred since that opening week. loss for the Bucks.
"That first game here for us was very emotional with everything that happened in Gordon," he said. "And after a tough loss in Cleveland, there are many things, we got the best of ourselves that night, but I felt that, as a group, we have grown enormously in a very short time and we feel that we have much more to do, much more to do
"I think The coach really did a great job putting us in position (last night) to give Kyrie outs and really simplified the offense. We just follow your plan. We really just received the ball, we pbaded it to the other side, and still Kyrie continued in some way with 32 points. He talks a lot about him. Also, by doubling it we were allowed to make plays and make the right game. It simply attracts a lot of attention. "
Horford personally benefited from the Bucks' decision to overload Irving.
The Celtics opened the quarter with an 88-81 lead, and fought hard to maintain that cushion, with the teams exchanging scoring possessions. up to the six minute mark.
That's when the exchange turned into a dunk, with Antetokounmpo answering a tip-off from Horford with a dunk on Marcus Smart, but Horford not only converted a pbad from alley-oop to Smart , again with a dunk, but also responded to the subsequent lack of Antetokounmpo with another dunking with Smart for a 102-90 lead.
Middleton cut the Celtics lead by 10 again (102-94) with 3 remaining : 48, and after four empty possessions combined, Jaylen Brown put a tray under Middleton, only for Antetokounmpo to respond with a layup, followed by a free kick by Bledsoe.
But the float Irving's boss pushed the Celtics lead up to 106-97, Milwaukee missed the next possession, and Irving buried the dagger with a triple over Bledsoe for a 108-97 air advantage.