Friday, March 31, 2023

Celtics look to keep momentum following bounce-back victory over Bucks

The Celtics kept their chances of grabbing the No. 1 seed alive following a 140-99 blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night.

Boston took advantage of circumstances that the team with the current best record in the league was playing on a second night of a back-to-back after a 149-136 win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday.
"Obviously they played last night," Al Horford said during his postgame comments. "That's just the way the NBA schedule works, and we benefitted from that."
Still, the C's looked dominant from wire-to-wire -- putting up 75 points in the first half, including a combined 42 points from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the break -- while shooting 56% from the field overall, including 22-of-43 (51.2%) from deep.

The All-Star duo added 28 more points (Tatum with 18 and Brown with 10) combined in the third period alone to finish with 70 points to Milwaukee's total output of 74 through three quarters.

Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 24 points on 11-of-27 shooting and 0-of-5 from 3-point territory, while Jrue Holiday -- was coming off a 51-point performance the night before -- finished with six points on 2-of-8 from the floor.

The Bucks as a unit connected on only 37.6% from the field, 32.6% from behind the arc and were outscored in the paint 54-36. They also trailed by as many as 49 points in what many are calling a statement game for Boston.
"At this point, it's not about sending messages," Horford insisted. "I just think for us it's to do what we have to do, handle our business."
The Celtics at 53-24 (two games behind the 55-22 Bucks for first place), definitely bounced back from a horrid 130-111 upset loss to the short-handed Washington Wizards Tuesday night which seemed to be the goal coming into Milwaukee.
"We responded well from the jump," Jayson Tatum said in his postgame presser. "That's all that I wanted and we wanted as a team, regardless of if we won or not, just to respond and play better than we did last game."
Despite Boston winning the season series and owning the tie-breaker over the Bucks, there's still another game to be played Friday on a second night of a back-to-back, as the Celtics host the Utah Jazz in an opportunity to avenge a 118-117 loss from earlier this month.
"Developing that consistency, that's something that's going to be put to the test tomorrow, Horford said after scoring 14 points and 4-of-6 from 3. "So we'll be able to talk about this tomorrow, understanding that we have Utah coming in, we had a chance to beat them at their place, we didn't."
While in all likelihood the Celtics will probably be the No. 2 seed in the East, it doesn't take away from the fact that they want to finish the last five games of the regular season on high-note.
"Forget about tonight. The game is over. It happened," Tatum said after dropping 40 points and 8-of-10 from long distance. "We have a game tomorrow. We talked about it in the locker room, they all count as one. We won. It don't necessarily mean much, so we have to move on.

"We are going to show how good of a team we are by the way we respond tomorrow. That's all that matters at this point."
The Celtics and Jazz tip-off tonight (Tommy Heinsohn night) from the TD Garden beginning at 7:30 ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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