Bucks defense shuts down Tatum, Celtics, Milwaukee takes Game 1


Against the Nets’ “defense,” the Celtics’ offense looked elite in their first-round series, with a net rating of 120.7 — a number that would have been the best in the regular season by 3 points per 100 possessions.

That may have been a mirage.

Against the physicality of the length of the Bucks defense in Game 1, Jayson Tatum shot 6-of-18, Jaylen Brown 4-of-13, Marcus Smart 3-of-11, and the Celtics’ offensive rating was 89.9.

That was a problem. Boston’s other big problem? Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in basketball, and while the Celtics’ defense did a respectable job on him, the two-time MVP still had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He also threw an alley-oop off the backboard to himself for a slam.

The result was a Bucks team picking up a Game 1 win on the road 101-89 — and doing it without Khris Middleton (whose status to return later in the series remains unclear). Milwaukee has a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 on Tuesday in Boston.

This was a defensive game and the Celtics did a good job making it difficult for Antetokounmpo to simply put his head down and get to the rim. Al Horford, in particular, had a strong defensive game matched up with the Greek Freak. However, in the past couple of seasons Antetokounmpo’s game has evolved — he’s an improved playmaker and found teammates for a dozen assists, plus he picked up six points on second-chance buckets.

Antetokounmpo also got help from his running mates. Jrue Holiday stepped up with 25 points for the Bucks, Bobby Portis had 15, and Grayson Allen shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and finished with 11.

However, it was the Bucks’ defense that frustrated the Celtics and won this game.

First, the Bucks are too disciplined to be easily forced into switches and mismatches, which the Celtics feasted on against the Nets. Boston didn’t move the ball well and the Bucks’ pressure on ball handlers seemed to fluster Celtics’ ball handlers.

Second, and more importantly, Boston’s offense played into the hands of the Milwaukee scheme.

The Bucks’ drop defense protects the paint first and baits teams into taking 3-pointers, making them susceptible to a hot-shooting team. However, it also makes their opponents one dimensional and a little easier to defend. The Celtics shot 18-of-50 from 3, a decent 36% as a team, but they were predictable jump shooters and the Bucks can live with that.

Boston looked rushed in the first half. Blame it on playoff nerves, but the Celtics hurried everything, including their shots — Tatum and Brown combined to shoot 5-of-18 in the half — and they turned the ball over nine times.

The Celtics’ offense looked good enough in the opening minutes, but that was primarily due to Horford. He had the Antetokounmpo assignment defensively and kept him in relative check, and on offense was the hub, moving the ball to open shooters. Boston opened up a seven-point lead in the first. But then the Bucks came out of a timeout upping their pressure on the Celtics ball handlers (especially the bench guys) and Boston turned the ball over multiple times and lost its momentum. Milwaukee closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run and had a 27-24 lead after one.

The Bucks timed their runs well — they closed out the first half on an 11-3 run to take a 56-46 lead into the half.

The Celtics can make adjustments to release some of the pressure from the Bucks’ defenders, and they can hit more of their 3s. But mostly, they have to get back to playing their game and not the one the Bucks want them to play.

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.




Jimmy Butler returns, hits clutch shots to lift Heat past Celtics

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
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BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and the Miami Heat completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics 120-116 on Friday night after Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

“Obviously having JB back is big time for us,” Herro said. “He helps us in so many different ways.”

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

“My team welcomed me back and let me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big `W’ for the team.”

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

“It felt good coming off my hand,” Brown said. “I know we wanted to get a shot up off the rim as fast as possible, just in case we missed we could get a rebound, a tip out.”

The Celtics had won 10 straight at TD Garden.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

“That’s the biggest thing about the league; you’re not going to stop anybody from just scoring,” Adebayo said. “I feel like (we’re) making him take tough shots every time we play him and living with the result.”

Butler hit a clutch jumper over Al Horford, making it 110-107 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation before Brown took a pass near midcourt, dribbled to his right and nailed his shot.

In OT, the teams were tied twice before Butler nailed a foul-line jumper over Horford with 1:45 left, but Brown hit two free throws to tie it.

Adebayo nailed two free throws and, after Tatum misfired on a 3, Butler hit a jumper to seal it.

“Jimmy made two tough, tough baskets,” Brown said. “That’s just a credit to his work and his skill and his development. He gets going in games like this; on the road in a hostile environment. … Tonight, two shots that in our defensive scheme we could live with, but Jimmy a big-time player made both of them.”

Unlike Wednesday, when shots were open more and both teams were making them effectively (each shot over 50%), defense was tighter and it resembled more of the postseason matchup last season between the pair that went seven games before Boston captured the Eastern Conference title.

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.