Throughout the regular season, the lone constant with the underachieving Celtics was their remarkable ability to squander massive leads in the second half.
The formality of the first round over, another implosion over the final 24 minutes would’ve been right on brand against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
Instead, the Celtics delivered easily their most impressive win since last year’s postseason with a 112-90 triumph on the road at the Kohl Center on Sunday.
U.S. & World
Boston allowed Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to score 22 points, but he did so on an inefficient 7-for-21 shooting for the Bucks. Al Horford covered the MVP candidate admirably all afternoon long, blocking him twice in the third quarter -- once emphatically, right back down the floor after draining a 3 to give the Celtics a 10-point lead.
Horford turned back the clock with 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving also had a double-double for Boston, leading the team with 26 points on 12-for-21 shooting and 11 assists.
The Celtics did blow one healthy lead early in the game, seeing a 40-25 point second quarter lead evaporate and briefly fall behind the Bucks before jumping ahead by two at the half.
After trading buckets early on in the third quarter, a pull-up jumper by Irving put Boston ahead for good at 58-56. The 15-point lead returned for the Celtics on a Terry Rozier jumper with 2:25 to go in the third quarter, and Rozier swelled Boston's lead to more than 20 points for the first time with a wideopen 3-pointer two possessions later.
All told, the Celtics outscored the Bucks, 60-40, in the second half.
Jaylen Brown had 19 points for Boston. Gordon Hayward (13) and Rozier (11) also reached double figures for the Celtics, who shot 54 percent (47-for-87) from the floor.
Khris Middleton had 16 points for the Bucks and Nikola Mirotic poured in 13 off the bench, the lone Milwaukee players to reach double figures in scoring for the Bucks beyond Antetokounmpo.
The Celtics blew the Bucks out despite a major disparity in free throws attempted as well. Milwaukee got to the line 24 times -- compared with just eight for Boston. Neither team shot particularly well from the stripe, each team sinking only 62.5 percent of their shots (the Celtics were 5-for-8, the Bucks 15-for-24).
Boston is now 5-0 this postseason overall, including 3-0 on the road. Last spring, the Celtics won only one playoff game away from TD Garden.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Milwaukee.