An overtime thriller boosted the Boston Celtics over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series on Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden.
Picking the game's most valuable player for the Celtics would be downright impossible, considering four players eclipsed 20 points – not to mention a fifth, Jayson Tatum, who scored 19 of his own in the first game of his postseason career.
"It shows what the team's been about all year, a balanced attack, different guys stepping up at different times," said Al Horford, who led the Celtics with both 24 points and 12 rebounds. "We've got to find ways to be efficient, and that's what we’re doing. We're learning, and I'm glad we were able to get this first win."
Terry Rozier, who initially wasn't having his strongest game shooting the ball, wound up with 23 points for Boston. The third-year guard connected on just five of his first 15 shots from the floor for as the team tried to break a 96-all tie with the shot clock turned off near the end of regulation.
Left alone after a lethal crossover fooled Eric Bledsoe, Rozier sank a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter that appeared to give the Celtics the win.
Except Boston turned right back around and left a Milwaukee shooter unattended, and the wrong one at that. Khris Middleton, who scored 31 points for the Bucks, beat the buzzer with a 3 from 35 feet out to send the game to the extra session.
"He hit it, and we had to refocus," Horford said. "We just kept on grinding it out."
Horford made 13 of his 14 free throws for the game, including a pair in overtime that put Boston on top for good at 106-105.
Tatum may have had some rookie moments, but he started strong and finished stronger for the Celtics. He made all four of his field goal attempts in the first quarter, prior to subbing out about halfway through the period. He overcame a cold streak – as did the entire Celtics team, who shot 4-for-20 from the floor in the second quarter – to leave a lasting impression in his playoff debut. He recorded a double-double along with Horford, grabbing 10 rebounds.
"I was very impressed, he was very composed," Horford said of Tatum. "He did a lot more good than bad. He was just very poised, making the right plays, great defensive plays and great rebounds. I was impressed by the way he was getting in there and getting some tough rebounds. It just shows the kind of player that he is."
Tatum's scoop shot with 1:23 left in the extra session extended Boston’s overtime lead to two points, at 108-106, and his subsequent block of Malcolm Brogdon led to two more free throws for Rozier.
"He's a hell of a player," second-year forward Jaylen Brown said of Tatum. "He came out and, rookie or not, he came out and fought. He made some turnovers and came back on the defensive end. That's what it's about."
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led all scorers with 35 points, missed a free throw with 14.8 seconds left on the clock that could have gotten Milwaukee back within two.
Antetokounmpo fouled out back on the defensive end, enabling Rozier connect on his first attempt from the line and give the Celtics a two-possession lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Marcus Morris scored 21 points off the bench, completing the quartet of 20-point scorers for Gang Green. Per @Celtics_Stats, it's the first time since the 1991 postseason the Celtics have had four 20-point scorers in a playoff game.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at 8 p.m. back at TD Garden.