Celtics survive wild finish, hold off Bucks 113-107 in OT

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BOSTON (AP) Boston coach Brad Stevens loves the postseason because it offers a chance to “bust narratives.”

The Celtics took their first step toward shattering the belief they can’t win without their biggest stars.

Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Boston overcame Khris Middleton‘s long 3 that beat the fourth-quarter buzzer, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-107 in overtime Sunday to open the playoffs.

The Celtics led 99-96 with 0.5 seconds left in regulation when Middleton took an inbounds pass on the far right wing and hit a contested 35-footer. Boston outscored Milwaukee 14-8 in the extra period.

Terry Rozier added 23 points, four rebounds and three assists for Boston in his first career playoff start. Jaylen Brown finished with 20 points. Rookie Jayson Tatum added 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Rozier said he knows he’s under a spotlight this postseason with Kyrie Irving out for the season following his recent knee surgery.

“I just know I gotta step up,” he said. “I know I gotta fill big shoes. I don’t feel no pressure. I’m glad to be in this position.”

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Boston.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 35 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists before fouling out in overtime. Middleton had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Malcolm Brogdon scored all 16 of his points after halftime.

After a muted start, things opened for Antetokounmpo. But he said he must do a better job the defensive end against Horford going forward.

“He knows what he’s doing down there,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully in Game 2 I won’t play on my heels and I’ll play more on my toes and be able to defend without fouling.”

Part of the reason the Bucks were in bad spots is because they were hampered by turnovers. They committed 20, leading to 27 Boston points.

“That’s not getting shot up,” Middleton said. “We feel like if we get a shot up, we’ll be good.”

An acrobatic, spinning layup by Tatum gave Boston a 108-105 lead in overtime.

It was 108-106 when Horford snared a rebound and got it ahead to Rozier, who was fouled. He made two free throws to put the Celtics in front 110-106 with 18.8 remaining.

Antetokounmpo made one of two foul shots with 14.8 seconds left, but he fouled out of the game while going for the rebound on his miss.

Rozier added three free throws to provide the final margin.

The game went to extra time following a wild finish in regulation that included back-to-back 3-pointers in the closing seconds.

Milwaukee was held to just two field goals over the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as the Celtics built an 86-76 advantage.

The Bucks closed to 89-87 before Marcus Morris made a falling down jumper just inside the arc to make it 91-87.

It was 92-91 with less than a minute to play when a pair of free throws by Horford made it 94-91.

Antetokounmpo got free for a dunk. But Horford was steady again after being fouled, connecting on two more from the line with 15.2 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Brogdon got free on the wing and drained a 3 with 10.3 to play to tie it at 96.

Rozier dribbled the clock down before crossing over Eric Bledsoe, stepping back and swishing an apparent game-winner with a half-second showing the clock.

But after a Milwaukee timeout advanced the ball to half court, Middleton matched it with his own 3 over Brown as time expired.

“Both teams are going to keep fighting,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “That’s what this series is going to be. Each little play is going to matter.”

TIP-INS

Bucks: Antetokounmpo has now scored at least 20 points in eight consecutive games against the Celtics. … Outscored the Celtics 58-44 in the paint.

Celtics: Improved to 23-20 in postseason overtime games. Except for Horford, who entered the Sunday’s game with 91 career playoff starts, Boston’s other four starters (Tatum, Aron Baynes, Brown, Rozier) had combined to play only one playoff game between them. That lone start belonged to Baynes.

QUOTABLE

“That was part of our plan, to kind of lull them into a false sense of security.” – Stevens, joking on Boston’s play during Bucks’ 26-4 run in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead

BIG PLAY

Tatum brought the crowd to its feet early in the first quarter when he took an outlet pass from Horford and went in for fast-break dunk over the outstretched arm of Antetokounmpo .

MAKING PROGRESS

Marcus Smart, who hasn’t played since March 11 and continues to work his way back from his March 16 surgery to repair a torn ligament, was also on the court getting up some shots before the game. He was recently cleared for non-contact shooting but hasn’t resumed full basketball activities.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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Kelly Oubre: Raptors’ Delon Wright ‘doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home’

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Delon Wright made some big plays down the stretch to help the Raptors to a Game 5 win over the Wizards last night. With Toronto up 3-2 in the first-round series and the home team winning the first five games, Game 6 is tomorrow in Washington.

Oubre, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“The next game is a different story. We’re back at home. Just like Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home,” Oubre said, sharing inspiration coupled with a touch of an insult. “You can kind of chalk it up as the same story.”

Wright decided not to escalate the conflict when reporters asked him about it.

Wright has been much better in Toronto than Washington in this series. His average game score is 14.7 at home and 5.7 on the road.

But that’s such a small sample. During the regular season, there wasn’t nearly such a big split between Wright’s average game score at home (8.4) and on the road (6.9).

For what it’s worth, Oubre has a somewhat similar home-road average-game-score split, both in this series (9.4 at home, 6.3 on the road) and during the regular season (8.1 at home, 7.5 on the road). Which Oubre basically acknowledged in his diss of Wright/self-own.

This is pretty typical Oubre – hyper-competitive verging on out of control. It’s fun regardless.

Let’s just say he’s right, though, and the Wizards win Game 6. Game 7 would be Sunday in Toronto, where, by Oubre’s own admission, Wright plays well and the Raptors are undefeated in the postseason. Then what?

Rumor: Bulls expected to wait until 2019 for free-agency splash

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The Bulls tanked so hard this year, the NBA warned them to cut it out. It was a rare instance of the league responding to actual tanking measures rather than just talk of preferring to lose.

Bulls executive John Paxson, via Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:

“We did this year what we felt was in the longterm best interests of the Bulls,” Paxson said. “It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again; it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in; but it’s the way the system is set up.”

Chicago could try to turn around quickly. The Bulls project to have about $25 million in cap space this summer – enough to land a good player or two.

Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago:

The assumption in league circles is the Bulls will wait until 2019 to make their big move when players like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving could be on the market, and might consider signing with the Bulls after watching another year of development from LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.

This is the wise course. It’s unlikely Chicago can lure anyone good enough to lift such a young core quickly. The Bulls are better off remaining patient – and bad, which will net another high draft pick as Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn develop.

This is also probably the course thrust upon Chicago. Even if they wanted to, the Bulls probably can’t land a premier free agent this summer. Star free agents can see the same problems with Chicago trying for a quick fix and will likely avoid the situation.

There’d be no harm in trying for top free agents like LeBron James or even Paul George. But the Bulls will probably be relegated to 2019 if they want to sign someone meaningful. Better they realize that than make a desperate attempt for relevance this year.

Rich Cho on Trail Blazers getting swept: ‘Being a previous Portland GM, that didn’t disappoint me’

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In 2011, the Trail Blazers surprisingly fired Rich Cho after only season as general manager.

Cho – since hired and fired by the Hornets – seems to be holding a grudge.

John Canzano of The Oregonian:

That’s a sentiment many people hold toward their former employer. Few say so publicly. That Cho did indicates just how strongly he feels.

Under owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers have run through numerous executives. It’s part of the culture in Portland, and it leaves a lot of outgoing people bitter.

Current general manager Neil Olshey ought to be mindful of that.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.