BOSTON ( Associated Press) — Following the Celtics’ Game 5 loss to Milwaukee that left his team down 3-2, Boston coach Ime Udoka released a forecast.
“It will be more rewarding when we come back,” he said.
Two wins later, the Celtics turned their coach’s prophecy into reality.
Grant Williams had 27 points and made seven 3-pointers, Jayson Tatum added 23 and Boston set a Game 7 record by hitting 22 3-pointers to eliminate the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in the semifinals of the NBA Finals. Eastern Conference.
Boston will face Miami starting Tuesday, reissuing the definition of the East in 2020. The Heat dispatched the Celtics in six games in that series played in the Walt Disney World bubble.
Tatum said his team took on the challenge of finding themselves “against the wall,” having been forced to win the last two games after falling apart in their previous home game.
“As much as the Game 5 loss hurt a lot, I was extremely excited to take on this challenge,” Tatum said. “I believe in my ability. I believe in this team. I was sure I could perform like this. I knew we had the ability to respond the way we have.”
The Celtics fell behind early, but rallied in the second half — going 61-38 — to go on to win. Boston settled the game with a mind-boggling 54-point difference on shots from beyond the arc to improve to 25-9 when going into Game 7.
Instead, the Bucks went 3-9. They only took 4 of 33 shots (12.1%) from the three-point line. It was the second-worst percentage for 3-point attempts in a playoff game (with a minimum of 30 shots).
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. But the Greek star was terrible during the second half, hitting just 3 of 11 shots in the paint, and 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
“The shots that I usually holed didn’t go in. So is basketball. That’s the sport,” Antetokounmpo said. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes it is lost. Someone has to win. And there is a loser. You have to accept it.”
Williams set a career high in scoring by shooting 7-for-18 from long range.
Boston began the second half with an 11-point drive against four of its rivals to take a 59-47 lead.
With the score at 63-65, Tatum was benched for his fourth foul. but the Celtics reacted and got 16 points against 11 of the Bucks the rest of the period and went with a 79-64 advantage to the fourth quarter.
The Bucks had the lead throughout the opening quarter, with Antetokounmpo scoring or assisting on 24 of Milwaukee’s 26 points in that period.