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

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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.

76ers look dangerous when adjusting for playoff rotations

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Kyrie Irving significantly affected the Celtics’ record this season. Isaiah Thomas held a defining role on the Cavaliers for a while. Tristan Thompson played plenty for Cleveland, too.

But Irving (injured) and Thomas (traded) will have nothing to do with Boston’s and Cleveland’s playoff fortunes. If Thompson falls from the Cavs’ postseason rotation, neither will he.

Yet, any season-long metrics – including win-loss record – commonly used to predict the playoffs factor in those players. So, I’ve found how many points per 100 possessions teams score and allow when five players projected to be in the postseason rotation are on the floor together.

This is hardly a perfect measure. Teams rarely announce their playoff rotations, so we’re left with my predictions of which players will receive regular playing time in the first round. The minutes distribution among players in the adjusted rating can vary from what it’ll be during the playoffs. This doesn’t take into account opponent quality. Some teams have larger samples than others. Home-court advantage is not considered.

But I find it useful, another data point among the many necessary to evaluate the upcoming playoffs. It shows how the players we project to see on the court the next couple weeks have played together, without someone else affecting the chemistry.

Here’s each team’s offensive, defensive and net ratings adjusted from the regular season to counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the first-round playoff rotation (using nbawowy! to calculate):

Eastern Conference

3. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Offensive rating: 110.6 to 110.1
  • Defensive rating: 106.1 to 99.4
  • Net rating: +4.5 to +10.7

1. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 116.1 to 118.5
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 108.2
  • Net rating: +8.3 to +10.3

7. Milwaukee Bucks

  • Offensive rating: 111.1 to 116.7
  • Defensive rating: 111.4 to 109.1
  • Net rating: -0.3 to +7.6

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 115.0 to 116.4
  • Defensive rating: 113.9 to 109.1
  • Net rating: +1.1 to +7.3

8. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.4
  • Defensive rating: 110.6 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +0.6 to +5.3

6. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 108.2 to 112.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 107.4
  • Net rating: +0.4 to +4.7

5. Indiana Pacers

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 111.7
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 108.0
  • Net rating: +1.5 to +3.7

2. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 109.7 to 106.6
  • Defensive rating: 105.9 to 104.1
  • Net rating: +3.8 to +2.5

Western Conference

1. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 118.0 to 124.3
  • Defensive rating: 109.1 to 112.1
  • Net rating: +8.9 to +12.2

5. Utah Jazz

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 105.3 to 100.7
  • Net rating: +4.2 to +11.2

6. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 115.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 105.3
  • Net rating: +1.5 to +9.9

3. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.6
  • Defensive rating: 108.5 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +2.7 to +5.5

8. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Offensive rating: 115.1 to 116.5
  • Defensive rating: 112.9 to 111.4
  • Net rating: +2.2 to +5.1

7. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 112.4
  • Defensive rating: 106.5 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +3.1 to +4.3

2. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 115.1 to 109.0
  • Defensive rating: 108.6 to 106.7
  • Net rating: +6.5 to +2.3

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 112.9 to 114.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.3 to 111.9
  • Net rating: +3.6 to +2.3

Observations:

    • The 76ers’ projection doesn’t include Joel Embiid, who expects to miss Game 1 against the Heat. Replace Richaun Holmes with Embiid, and the 76ers’ offensive/defensive/net ratings jump to 116.9/98.6/+18.3. Wow!
    • These rankings could overrate the 76ers, though. Their schedule softened late, after Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli arrived post-buyout. Counting those two in the postseason rotation could skew the sample.
    • Nearly all teams annually see their net rating improve once adjusted for the playoff rotation. This year, three teams get worse with the adjustment. All three – Celtics (Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis), Warriors (Stephen Curry) and Thunder (Andre Roberson) – are missing key players due to injury.
    • The adjustment pegs four lower seeds ahead of their first-round opponent – Bucks over Celtics, Jazz over Thunder, Pelicans over Trail Blazers, Spurs over Warriors.
    • Utah became a different team once Rudy Gobert got healthy.
    • The Pelicans projected postseason rotation is especially tight. They might need to rely more on lesser players than projected here, lest they risk getting worn down.
    • Whichever team drew depleted Boston was clearly in (relatively) good shape. The Bucks might be the best of the teams – also, Heat and Wizards – that were in the running.
    • I expected the Cavaliers to improve even more with the adjustment. Isaiah Thomas trying to play his way back into form was so destructive for them. Perhaps, LeBron James dialing it up will be enough for them to win the East again.
    • The Rockets’ offense will be awesome. They’ll miss Luc Mbah a Moute defensively.

Three Things to Know: Three must-watch games on final night of season

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Every weekday throughout the NBA season, we have given you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Today, for the last day of the regular season (and the last of the Three Things columns) we are looking ahead).

How insanely close has the NBA competition been this season? We head into the last night of the regular season with zero playoff matchups set. Not one. The top couple teams in each conference are locked into their spots, but below them the ground is still shifting. Nothing is settled. Our old friend Matt Moore (now with the Action Sports Network) has been tracking the playoff tiebreaks and outcome with a religious fervor, and this Tweet sums up just how much is still on the line in the West.

With all that said, here are the three games you need to watch Wednesday night:

1) Denver at Minnesota: Win and you’re in. This is Game 7. Or an MLB Wild Card play-in game. Or an NCAA Tournament game. It’s this simple: Minnesota and Denver are tied for the 8/9 seeds in the West at 46-35, and they play tonight at the Target Center. Winner is in the playoffs. Loser can make a tee time for whenever they want tomorrow.

(By the way, the winner is not automatically going to be the eight seed and chum in the first round for the Rockets. If Denver wins it cannot finish eighth — due to tiebreakers — and will be either the six or seven seed. If Minnesota wins it can be anywhere from 6-8 depending upon other games.)

It’s essentially a home game seven for Minnesota, and home teams have a huge advantage in Game 7s. Still, Game 7s are must watch.

2) Utah at Portland, battle for the three seed in the West. It’s the last game of the night, however the playoff seedings and matchups will not be set until it is over. Both the Jazz and Trail Blazers have punched their ticket to the postseason, but the winner of this game gets the three seed in the West and being in Golden State’s side of the bracket (with the Warriors a little banged up that may be preferrable to facing Houston).

Portland looked like a lock for the three seed a week ago, but lost four in a row to put themselves in this position. Meanwhile, Utah has won six in a row to give themselves this shot at a top three seed (which, considering they were 5 games out of the playoffs on Jan. 15, in insane). That said, Utah is on a back-to-back after beating the Warriors last night, their legs could be a little tired.

3) Milwaukee at Philadelphia, who wants to win this one? Time for a little gamesmanship. Remember that teams in the East are trying to line up a chance to play the banged up No. 2 seed Boston Celtics (a good team that will be without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis).

If the Bucks lose this game, they are the seven seed and get the Celtics in the first round. Win and they move up to six and would face LeBron James Cleveland in the first round (assuming the Cavs take care of business and knock off the lowly Knicks). How badly do the Bucks want this one?

If the Sixers win, they hang on to the three seed and would face Boston or the team that beats them (the Bucks) in the second round. A Philly loss combined with a Cleveland win and the Sixers fall to the four seed and face a tougher playoff path, one that goes through Toronto. Meaning the Sixers are motivated to win this one.

So one team is motivated to win, another to lose… you see where this is going, right?

One other game to watch: Toronto at Miami. This doesn’t matter to Toronto, they are the top seed. For Miami, win and they will be the six or seven seed, but a Heat loss combined with a Wizards win (over a tanking Magic team) and the Heat become the seven seed. Miami is motivated in this one, Toronto… not so much.