The Boston Celtics were down by as many as 11 points late in the third quarter, before mounting a comeback with a major contribution from veteran forward Al Horford to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 and tie the series 2-2, heading back to Boston for Game Five.
Horford finished the evening with a postseason career-high 30 points, shooting 11-of-14 from the field, and 5-of-7 from three point range.
Boston Head Coach Ime Udoka said, “We were all pretty pissed at the way we lost the last game.”
It showed tonight. Boston put much more of an emphasis of getting the ball to the rim, especially out in transition, only losing the points in the paint battle by four, easily the lowest margin of the series.
Milwaukee held control of the game through the first quarter, before Boston crawled back into the game. The last eight minutes of the second quarter were very back-and-forth, closing with the Bucks leading 48-47 at the half. Giannis Antetokoumpo led all players with 15 points at 11 rebounds.
The third quarter is where the everything hit the fan, and bodies were flying. A pivotal moment in the game took place early in the quarter when Antetokoumpo slammed in a transition basket and stared down Horford, receiving a technical foul for it.
Al Horford stated postgame, “The way he was looking at me, and the way he was going about it, didn’t sit well with me. And yeah, that sort of flipped a switch at that moment.”
Horford had 19 points from that moment on, 16 of them coming in the fourth quarter. With Milwaukee dominating the third quarter, Boston needed every last bit from Al Horford to get back in this game.
The most memorable of his buckets came with 9:51 to go in the ballgame, when Horford drove by Antetokoumpo and threw-down a game-tying and-one finish over Giannis, including an elbow to the face on the follow through celebration, resulting in Horford’s own technical foul.
At this moment, the Boston Celtics had come all the way back to tie the game at 81. With just under ten minutes to play, we had a brand new ballgame.
From this point on, Boston outscored Milwaukee 36-28, 43-28 overall in the fourth, leading by as many as ten points on multiple occasions.
The Boston Celtics ramped up the intensity on the defense side of things in the final period. Marcus Smart noted this, and was asked about it after the contest, saying, “That’s who we are. The physicality. The adversity. The hostile environment. But, that’s who we are. We felt at home.”
Boston shot 16-of-19 from the field in the fourth quarter, with Jayson Tatum, who had 30 points in a much-needed bounce-back performance, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart combining for 37 points on 15-of-17 shooting in the fourth.
Giannis Antetokoumpo had 34 points and 18 rebounds on the evening, but was held to 3-of-7 shooting for only six points in the final frame. Antetokoumpo also was tied, with Jrue Holiday, for the team low in plus/minus, for the quarter, with -17.
For Boston, everything that could have gone right in the fourth quarter, did. The only exception being that Jaylen Brown battled foul trouble for the entire game, and did not attempt a shot in the closing period. But, of course, Al Horford did more than enough to make up for Brown’s absence.
Marcus Smart was asked about Horford in the postgame press conference, to which he replied with a huge grin, “Al…man, we love Al. He’s the best vet we’ve ever had.”
Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer expects his team to be ready moving forward. “We’re looking forward to Game Five on the road,” Budenholzer stated. “We’ve been there before, we’ve got to do our best.”
Game Five will be in Boston on Wednesday evening, with a start time of 7 p.m. Eastern. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. It’s a best-of-three series now, with an Eastern Conference Finals looming in the balance.
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