In the most important game of the regular season, the Celtics showed the world why they should be the team favored to win the NBA Finals. The Celtics shut down the Bucks, beating them 140-99 in Milwaukee. The Celtics finish the year 2-1 against the Bucks, with the one loss being in overtime without Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown playing.
Speaking of Tatum and Brown, the duo was unstoppable, scoring at will throughout the entirety of the game, despite Milwaukee having the second-highest defensive rating in the league. In the first half alone, Tatum had 22 points and five rebounds, shooting 50% from the floor while going 4-for-6 from behind the arc.
As for Brown, he scored 20 points while shooting 66%, going 3-for-4 from deep. The Celtics finished the first half scoring 75 points. It was an embarrassment for Milwaukee. Tatum and Brown combined for 42 points at half while the entire Milwaukee team only had 47.
Joe Mazzulla deserves credit for figuring out how to defensively stop Giannis Antetokounmpo. Every time Antetokounmpo tried to drive, the entire defense created a wall that clogged up the interior, encouraging Antetokounmpo and his teammates to shoot the three. In the first half, Milwaukee shot an abysmal 3-for-22 from behind the arc and just 33% from the floor overall.
Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were the only Milwaukee starters to score in double digits. Antetokounmpo scored 24 points, but he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Middleton finished with 13 points.
As for the Celtics, every starter except for Derrick White finished in double figures. Tatum led the Celtics with a very efficient 40 points, shooting 8-for-10 from behind the arch. Brown was second in scoring for the Celtics, finishing the game with 30 points. Brown was 13-for-20 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc. Al Horford had 14 points, shooting 4-for-6 from behind the arc, and Marcus Smart scored 10.
What was most impressive in the win: the killer instinct of the Jays. Instead of stopping while up at the half or getting comfortable with the lead, the Celtics pushed on the gas even harder, with Tatum entering a zone that we have not seen in a while, scoring hard, contested shots from all over the floor. Tatum was crossing up players and shooting the three, driving in the lane and sometimes posterizing opponents.
Brown showed an insane amount of strength and speed by dominating with layups and multiple dunks. Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez are considered amongst the top defenders at their positions, yet Brown was unstoppable.
Despite small minutes, Rob Williams awakened into the beast that the Celtics have desperately needed. Williams finished the game with seven points on 3-for-3 shooting, seven rebounds, four blocks and one steal.
As a team, the Celtics shot an impressive 51.2% from behind the arc and 56% overall from the floor. Milwaukee was shut down, shooting 32.6% from three and a horrific 37.6% overall. If the Celtics continue to play at this level on both sides of the court against top competition, it is only a matter of time before we see them at the NBA Finals again.