Celtics Survive Milwaukee Miracle to Capture Game 1 in OT, 113-107

Terry Rozier comes up huge at the end of regulation and in overtime to help clinch Game 1 and put Boston up, 1-0.


BOSTON — Terry Rozier and the Celtics were not going to be denied Sunday.

Rozier drilled a step-back 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left in regulation for what seemed like a game-clinching three. But Khris Middleton took a pass from Giannis Antetokounmpo and launched a 35-foot prayer that fell through the bottom of the net for a game-tying three to force overtime at 99-99.

But the Celtics showed their true grit in overtime, thanks to another key three from Rozier in the extra five minutes, to post a 113-107 win over the Bucks at an electric TD Garden. Rozier’s two free throws with 18.8 seconds left amidst “Terry, Terry” chants put Boston up, 110-106. Giannis Antetopounmpo finished with a game high 35 points before fouling out late in overtime while Middleton added 31.

Rozier was making the start at point guard for the injured Kyrie Irving and finished with 23 points. Jaylen Brown delivered high energy and 20 points while Tatum drove home a big slam, connected on a key three and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds while Marcus Morris added 21 off the bench and delivered a key long three and drew a charge on Giannis Antetopounmpo late. Horford’s two free throws put Boston up, 96-93, with 15.2 seconds left. Returning from injury for the last two games of the regular season, Malcolm Brogdon drained a game-tying three with 10.3 seconds left.

With Kyrie Irving on the bench in street clothes and done for the season following left knee surgery and Marcus Smart likely out until the very end of the first round, the Celtics turned to their Kiddie Corps Sunday.

Click here for a full box score. Game 2 is set for Tuesday night TD Garden at 8 p.m. before the series shifts to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4.

Celtics ended the first quarter on a 15-0 run and held the Bucks scoreless for the final 4:18 of the period after Khris Middleton gave Milwaukee a 17-14 lead with a corner three.

The Celtics forced eight Milwaukee turnovers in the first quarter and scored 18 points in the paint, one point more than Milwaukee scored in the opening 12 minutes as Boston took a 29-17 lead into the second quarter.

The highlight of the opening quarter was Jayson Tatum posterizing dunk of Giannis Antetokounmpo in transition.

The one thing Brad Stevens harped on pregame was the “critical” need to take care of the ball and avoid breakouts by the Bucks. During one three-minute span, the Bucks made a prophet of Stevens as Shane Larkin committed three of four Boston turnovers leading to eight points and a 10-0 run that put Milwaukee back on top, 32-31.

But the Celtics, even after a Stevens timeout, couldn’t shake their offensive funk. The Bucks went on a 26-4 spurt to take a 43-33 lead. Repeating their first quarter effort, the Celtics dug their heels in again on defense and held the Bucks to just four points for the final four minutes of the first half.

Al Horford blocked Middleton’s 3-point attempt and grabbed the ball, feeding it to Jayson Tatum in transition. The rookie found a driving Terry Rozier, who drove to the basket for an impressive reverse layup with six seconds left to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 47-44 at the break. The Celtics had more turnovers (5) than field goals in the second quarter and were outscored 30-15. They were also just 2-for-11 in the first half from beyond the arc.

After going 2-for-11 from deep in the first half, Rozier nailed a three to open the third quarter and tie the game, 47-47.

The two teams traded sloppy execution for the next five minutes and then a two-possession span of the third quarter got the Sunday crowd on its feet. With the shot clock at four seconds and Marcus Morris dribbling beyond the 3-point arc, he drove to the basket just in time for a layup, putting the Celtics up, 58-56. On the next possession, Rozier appeared to lose possession on a behind-the-back move at midcourt. But there was Jaylen Brown to pick up the ball and dribble to the 3-point line. His triple with 4:31 left in the third put the Celtics up, 61-56.

Following Boston’s 10-0 run in 90 seconds, Milwaukee came back to make it 63-62. Then Horford demanded the ball in the low post. He got it and was fouled and nodded his head on the foul and the crowd roared in appreciation. Another loud moment came on a Tatum straightaway three and the crowd exploded and the Celtics lead was up to six, 70-64. Middleton hit a jumper with 0.9 seconds left in the third to send the game to the fourth at 70-66 Boston.

The Celtics assumed control to open the fourth, with Jaylen Brown’s layup putting the Celtics ahead 76-68 with 9:37 and Bucks coach Joe Prunty called timeout to regroup. Shane Larkin’s wide-open three with 8:37 left gave Boston a 79-70 lead. The Bucks made another run to cut the lead to four, 79-75. But Boston scored the next five, capped off by Marcus Morris’ reverse layup with 4:52 left for an 84-75 lead.

Up 10 at 86-76, the Celtics had to withstand another Milwaukee charge. Jaylen Brown picked up his fourth foul when he was called for the block on Antetopounmpo on a drive to the basket with 3:11 left. His two free throws made it 86-82.

After a Giannis layup made it 86-84, Rozier answered with a three. Middleton came right back with a triple and it was 89-87 Boston. Marcus Morris drained a long two. With Antetopounmpo ran over Morris for a charge, the Celtics had the ball and a four-point lead. Eric Bledsoe’s layup with 52.3 seconds made it a one-point game, 92-91 Boston.