What’s one way to follow up the first 20-point performance of your playoff career?
Second-year swingman Jaylen Brown’s encore raised the bar even higher, as he exploded for a team-high 30 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a 120-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
“Jaylen was great,” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “Defensively and offensively, I think that he played with a lot of confidence. He took what the defense gave him and he shot the ball with confidence. That was really good to see and he’s the guy that really took it to another level for us.”
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The win will send Boston on the road with a 2-0 series lead over Milwaukee in its best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series.
Brown came out on fire, in much of the same fashion fellow youngster Jayson Tatum did in Game 1 on Sunday. Dunks, 3-pointers and step-back jumpers were all falling for Brown, who had 12 points in the first quarter to stake the Celtics to a 33-22 lead.
Milwaukee made its run, featuring none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star made each of his first seven shots from the field, not missing until the 7:30 mark of the second quarter. His team came all the way back to tie the game at 35-35 behind a 13-0 surge, in which he had six points and two assists.
Boston emerged with a 7-0 spurt of its own, leaving Milwaukee trailing for the duration.
“I felt like we came out very poised,” Horford said. “They came out really aggressive, Giannis was really aggressive from the beginning. We were able to take their shot and stay with it.”
For as great as Antetokounmpo was yet again – he led the Bucks with 30 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists – the Celtics were fine to let him run amok, as his supporting cast beyond Khris Middleton and his 25 points were, for the second game in a row, nowhere to be found.
What’s more, Milwaukee seemed to take an optional approach on the defensive end. Boston shot 53.3 percent from the floor but attempted 13 more field goals than the Bucks, a figure which wound up accounting for much of the difference in the game.
The Celtics had 20 second-chance points, compared to just seven for the Bucks; Milwaukee didn’t help its cause at the free throw line, either, shooting just 41.2 percent (7-for-17) from the line.
Horford continued his strong start to the postseason with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and added five rebounds. Ditto for Terry Rozier, who came alive for 23 points – his second straight game with that figure – and a team-high eight assists as the lead point guard once again.
It was also Rozier’s second straight game without committing a turnover.
The Celtics bench got involved beyond just Marcus Morris, too. Morris, an unsung hero in Game 1 when he had 21 points off the pine, once again reached double figures with 18 points. He was joined by Greg Monroe and Shane Larkin, who each poured in 12 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.
“My teammates found easy buckets, really,” said Monroe, who spent parts of three seasons with Milwaukee before joining Boston on Feb. 8 after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. “In the second half we made a little run, we thought we had a size advantage inside and tried to be aggressive.”
Larkin hit a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the third quarter to give Boston a 90-75 lead. The Celtics were only outscored by a point in the final period, much of which came during garbage time.
Boston will look to take a commanding 3-0 series lead Friday night in Milwaukee, with tip-off scheduled for 9:30 p.m. No team in NBA history has lost a series once going up three games to none.