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Eric Bledsoe on Terry Rozier, who scored 23: “I don’t even know who the f–k that is”

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The first round series in the Eastern Conference between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics isn’t going as planned. There was some murmuring that the Bucks, the 7th seed, might have the edge over the 3-seed Celtics given Boston’s injury woes.

After Tuesday night, the Celtics hold 2-0 series lead as the teams head to Milwaukee.

Jaylen Brown had a career night, becoming the youngest player in Boston history to score 30+ points in a playoff game. Terry Rozier had a good night as well, adding 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the win over the Bucks, 120-106.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe wasn’t having any questions about interplay between him and the upstart Rozier. After a reporter asked Bledsoe whether he took the matchup between him and Rozier personally, the Bucks guard answered like this:

This reminds me a the time in 2014 when I was covering the first round series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. I asked a similar question to Patrick Beverley, wondering how much he considered the interplay and season-long rivalry between him and Damian Lillard. In a similar fashion, Beverley told me he “didn’t think about him at all.”

Obviously that wasn’t true, and like the situation with Bledsoe it’s obvious how much the mentioned player is getting under his skin by his supposed non-response. Very telling.

Jaylen Brown scores 30, young Celtics take 2-0 series lead over Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo drove and scored while being fouled, his third drawn foul on a made shot.

But he stepped on Aron Baynes foot, fell to the ground and held his right ankle in pain. Then – following a Last Two Minute Report that noted he held the ball longer than the permitted 10 seconds on all six of tracked free throws in Game 1 (a longstanding issue) and an air-balled quicker free throw earlier in Game 2 – Antetokounmpo missed again from the line.

Antetokounmpo remains a force, but the rising Celtics have the Bucks down, battered and thrown for a loop.

Jaylen Brown scored 30 points to lead Boston to a 120-106 Game 2 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday, giving the Celtics a 2-0 series lead. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 94% of the time.

The 21-year-old Brown became youngest Boston player ever to score 30 in a playoff game.

“What more can you ask for?” Brown said. “Everybody’s writing us off. They’re saying that we’re too young, and we’re not even listening.”

The Celtics appeared headed for trouble with Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis out injured. But Boston’s young players are stepping up.

Starting at point guard for Irving, 24-year-old Terry Rozier (23 points on eight assists tonight) has played 78 minutes in this series without a turnover. Rozier is acing this audition.

Antetokounmpo (30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) is elite. Khris Middleton (25 points on 10-of-14 shooting) played excellently once he finally asserted himself.

But Eric Bledsoe continues to struggle. Tony Snell has been invisible. The Bucks still haven’t found a helpful role for Jabari Parker – no easy task considering his defensive shortcomings. Milwaukee’s centers were also too often out of position defensively. Anything Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe did required overcoming the Bucks’ poor spacing.

On the other hand, the Celtics – both young and seasoned – are flowing. Marcus Morris (18 points) and Middleton got chippy late in the game. At one point, Morris committed a hard foul on Middleton. Middleton earned free throws, but once everyone was separated, Morris was calling the Boston crowd to its feet.

The Bucks are still standing. The Celtics feel good about how things are going.

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

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

PBT Extra Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics

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Teams in the East were jockeying to get on Boston’s side of the playoff bracket because the Celtics are so banged up — no Kyrie Irving, no Gordon Hayward, no Marcus Smart, no Daniel Theis. The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the seven seed and got the chance to take on what’s left of the Celtics in the first round.

But can the Bucks beat them?

Milwaukee will have the best player in the series by a mile in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they have strong players around him such as Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton. However, the Bucks are undisciplined and make mental mistakes all the time. On the other side, Boston still has Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown — and they will be disciplined. The Celtics will defend well and not make mistakes.

That combination makes this an interesting clash.

Celtics: Kyrie Irving out 4-5 months

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Update: Celtics release:

This Saturday, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will undergo a procedure to remove two screws implanted in his left patella after the patellar fracture he suffered during the NBA Finals in 2015. Following a mid-March procedure to remove a tension wire that had been implanted at the same time as the screws, pathology indicated the presence of a bacterial infection at the site of the hardware. To ensure that no infection remains in the knee, the screws will be removed. The fracture in Irving’s patella has completely healed, and his knee remains structurally sound. He is expected to make a full recovery in 4-5 months.

Turns out, he’ll miss the entire postseason.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is devastating to Boston, which falls from a legitimate Eastern Conference challenger to a team susceptible to losing in the first round. The Celtics will still probably finish with the No. 2 seed, but without Irving, they’re not necessarily better than the Heat, Bucks or Wizards – potential first-round foes.

Irving joins Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis as Boston players listed as done for the season. Like with Hayward, rumors could still emerge about Irving returning if the Celtics advance far enough. Today’s leak could be about Boston trying to preemptively shut down speculation and questions about Irving’s availability. But winning a series or two obviously becomes far more difficult without those stars.

This also opens the door to questions about Irving’s long-term health. His knee is a reoccurring issue, and he and the team must manage it. This might cause the Celtics to retain Marcus Smart in restricted free agency and/or extend Terry Rozier‘s contract this offseason.

For now, Rozier must continue to step up at point guard. Smart will help if he gets healthy. So will Shane Larkin once he does, too.

Boston isn’t finished. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach who gets everyone to understand and embrace their roles. Al Horford is a star. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are emerging.

No matter what happens in the playoffs, this was a positive year for the Celtics – acquiring Irving and Hayward, seeing Tatum, Brown and Rozier develop. The Cavaliers still have LeBron James, and the Raptors have extended their window through a “culture reset.” Boston can afford to take the long view.

With the available talent diminishing, the Celtics now look more like a lower seed than their 53-25 record would suggest. They play hard and cohesively, but goes only so far in the playoffs. They acquired Irving to put them over the top in those situations – but that must wait.