Jayson Tatum delivers and more observations from a win in the Celtics opening night

Jaylen Brown had 33 points for Boston. Tatum added 30 points with 21 in the second half. Jeff Teague came off the bench with 19 points and 4 assists.

The Celtics led, 103-86, in the first minute of the fourth quarter before the Bucks moved back behind Antetokounmpo. The two-time MVP scored 15 points in six minutes, including a powerful 10-point run that pulled Milwaukee within 109-107 with 6:28 left. With 3:26 left, an Antetokounmpo tournament gave the Bucks a 115-113 lead, their first since early in the third quarter.

Tatum gave Boston the lead back on a hard setback before Jrue Holiday drilled a 3-pointer that put Milwaukee ahead, 120-119, with 1:10 left. After a Tatum sawing, Donte DiVincenzo stripped the other way to extend Milwaukee’s lead, but he was removed by Teague, the ball went off the field outside DiVincenzo’s legs.

Observations from the game:

⋅ There was growing anxiety for this team based on a few dull show games, but it should at least dampen it in the short term. The Celtics were not perfect, but their two-star performances as well as novices Teague and Thompson showed that Boston should be able to stay afloat while Kemba Walker is out.

⋅ The Bucks were called to a defensive 3-second technical foul with just under five minutes left in the second quarter and Brown stepped to the line. There were no real snipers on the floor with him, but it was still a bit of a surprising choice for a career of 67.8 percent who had fought hard until that point in the game.

But Brown drained the shot and it may have ignited his powerful flurry that closed half. Brown scored 10 points over the last 2:32 of the second quarter, including a couple of deep 3-pointers. This Boston offense will face challenges while Walker is out and the Celtics need big outbursts from Brown most nights.

It was a bit of a surprise when Thompson, who missed both preseason games due to a hamstring injury, joined Daniel Theis in a double-big starting lineup. Stevens was probably looking for some length and size to fight Antetokounmpo’s drive to the basket, but the experiment did not work so well in the opening quarter as the Bucks exploded for one transition opportunity after another.

⋅ It was a relatively quiet start for Tatum, but he is a rare player who can turn a sleepy night into a dominant one pretty quickly. The All-Star forward poured 10 points over a stretch of just 1 minute, 32 seconds, starting late in the third quarter and finishing early in the fourth as a float gave Boston its biggest lead at 103-86.

⋅ Payton Pritchard, the 26th pick in last month’s draft, checked in late in the first quarter, providing further proof that he is ahead of 14th pick Aaron Nesmith in the tournament. Pritchard had a welcome-to-NBA moment shortly after when Antetokounmpo came running towards him to complete a three-point game on a quick break. A few minutes later, however, Pritchard drilled a deep 3 from the left arc.

He did not seem out of place during his period.

⋅ Teague and Grant Williams were Boston’s first two subgroups. In the first half, Teague continued his excellent play from the preseason, counting 13 points and 3 assists in 13 minutes. He added two more 3-pointers during Boston’s third quarter that jumped the game open. He brought stability to the offense, and his status will be a major asset with Walker out.

⋅ A rare event: The Celtics made 7 out of 15 3-pointers in the first quarter and four of the misses were balloons.

⋅ If Gordon Hayward had returned, or the Celtics had orchestrated a sign-and-trade that brought players back in return, it was unlikely Boston would exercise its team opportunity to bring Semi Oeljeye back. But none of those things happened, and the fourth-year winger had a first-half that was among the best in his career.

He had a tough finish to a three-point game, fed Thompson with a nice feed inside a layup and drilled a deep 3-pointer. This stretch helped get him off the bench as Boston’s first sub in the second half.

⋅ The Celtics honored franchise legend Tommy Heinsohn with a moment of silence prior to the game and a tribute video below it. Also Boston’s players wore T-shirts for warm-up that said ‘Tommy’ on them.

Heinsohn, 86, who died of kidney failure on November 9, was inducted into the Hall of Fame both as a Celtics player and as a coach and has worked as the team’s color commentator since 1981.

⋅ The Celtics lowered some of their NBA championship banners and placed them behind the hangers as a way to hide the cavernous garden.

⋅ Marcus Smart is a two-time first-team All-Defense pick, and if Antetokounmpo forgot, he received a quick reminder. Smart pulled three offensive errors against Antetokounmpo and followed a pair up in the third quarter by stripping him.

By offense, Smart performed well in a distributing role and finished with seven assists.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.

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