The Boston Celtics looked like they were on the verge of dropping their first game of the season in familiar fashion.
In the Disney World bubble, the Celtics struggled fiercely to hold the fourth quarter lead, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals. On Wednesday, after taking a 17-point lead with Jayson Tatum’s three to end the third quarter, the Celtics allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to storm back into the game and take a lead in the closing seconds. A familiar scene after the game felt inevitable.
But Tatum changed the story. His knocked 3-pointer, as time went on, gave the Celtics a 122-120 lead, and Giannis Antetokounmpo went 1-for-2 on the line with 0.4 seconds left to give Boston a win.
Here are five takeaways.
Jayson Tatum took many 3-pointers.
The Celtics really started to emphasize Tatum’s skill as a shooter last season, and he flourished in that role. When Anteotkounmpo defended his last 3-point attempt, he knew exactly what the Celtics star would do.
“He did his usual move, step back,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was right there to compete.”
It was him, but it did not matter – Tatum’s shot hit high from the glass and fell through.
“No, I’m not trying [to bank it in], ”Tatum admitted after the game (to no surprise). “The angle I had, and knowing how tall he was when I first let it go, I knew it would hit the back plate, but I didn’t necessarily try.”
Tatum is not a shy player, but he seemed particularly happy to shoot triples up Wednesday and finished 6-for-13 from deep as he dropped to 30 points. These 13 3-point attempts were a career high.
Tatum was asked if he plans to increase his 3-point attempts this season.
“I think that’s how the game went tonight,” he said. “Obviously, I think something I have tried to emphasize is just to be more of a threat, shoot more three. Something within our offense, something I talked to Brad about. My teammates believe in me, so I take good shots, but will definitely shoot more three. ”
Jaylen Brown drove a lot of pick-and-roll.
The Celtics used Brown as a ball handler quite a lot with great effect. Brown finished with a height of 33 points on 13-to-24 shooting after a slow start, and much of his offense came in the middle class.
Brown found ways to create space out of pick-and-roll in different ways. He picked the Bucks apart repeatedly in the middle class, where pick-and-roll defenses are often the weakest and even implemented Chris Paul’s favorite trick at times – to weave around the screen, stop to keep his defender frozen behind him and then explode away from it defends to a jumper.
Last season, Brown made tremendous progress with the ball in his hands, but he was rarely used as the Celtics used him on Wednesday. He was asked how comfortable he felt in his new role.
“Comfortable,” Brown said. “Just fine. It’s a new year, a new season, a new responsibility, so I’m just trying to accept that challenge. And I’m looking forward to this year.”
Brown has always been associated with middle-class jumpers, even as he extended his game to the 3-point line. On Wednesday, he showed he can be much more than a player just attacking closeouts.
The Celtics started with two big ones and played them a lot.
After starting Javonte Green on the wing in the preseason, Brad Stevens went with two majors in the starting lineup: Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson. The results were mixed – Theis made a couple of triples in the early stages and Thompson had a lovely debut, but the Celtics’ defense was porous in the first quarter, especially in the transition.
“It was a feature that I was really upset about how we played up to this point and I wanted to start a very, very good defensive lineup,” Stevens said when asked about his reasoning. “And we still have to play much better at that end.”
The Celtics are skewed smaller and more versatile in recent years, but especially against a team like the Bucks, two bigs made a lot of sense. Antetokounmpo’s size is devastating, and Milwaukee often plays him next to Brook Lopez – a towering center with deep 3-point range and soft touch in the post.
“Big men know how to adapt. Big men can make big games, ”said Tristan Thompson. “You always talk about the little ball, but you saw what happened to the Houston Rockets when they played against the Lakers. So the small balls are good, but when it comes to the playoffs, you need real big ones to win games. And you look at all the teams competing at a high level for a championship, they play their big when it matters.
“So I will always reproduce the big ones, DT will reproduce the big ones. So I will always stand with my big guys across the league. ”
Tatum and Brown continued to exchange comfort.
The Celtics’ stars have always said the right things about each other, and this trend continued on Wednesday. In his comments after the game on TNT, Tatum called his performance “terrible” and referred unsolicited to Brown’s 33-point night. Asked repeatedly about Tatum’s game winner after leading the team to score, Brown praised his star teammate.
“Hell with a shot. Big time shot, ”Brown said. “It is the type of shot that we trust JT with that he is looking forward to. I do not know if he called for glass, but I take it. ”
Young stars like Tatum and Brown are often put under a microscope, as one of the easy stories about a team with two similarly talented players in the same position is “Can they exist peacefully?” Tatum and Brown have never given this tale any fuel to burn. The Celtics, one can imagine, greatly appreciate that.
Rookies looked like rookies.
In an otherwise eventful game, the Celtics’ rookies were pretty much nowhere to be found. Payton Pritchard played 13 minutes and made a deep 3-pointer, but he also made a couple of rookie-defensive defensive mistakes (the bad Pritchard is now scored by both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant in consecutive games). Aaron Nesmith did not see the court.
In a season opener, rookies are often a focal point, but the Celtics needed their best players on the floor at all times to have a chance against Milwaukee. Pritchard and Nesmith are apparently not there yet.
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