A 13-point third quarter from Giannis Antetokounmpo had the Milwaukee Bucks up 11 at home at the end of the third quarter. The Fiserv Forum was electric, but Al Horford was quick to pull the plug in the fourth.
Horford set a playoff career-high in scoring with 30 points to go along with eight rebounds, as Boston evened the series against Milwaukee 2-2.
Jayson Tatum, despite the early struggles, picked up the offense in crunch time and reached 30 points, too. Jaylen Brown got in foul trouble, and finished with 18 points. Marcus Smart was the closer for Boston, scoring four of the final eight points and finished with 18 points and eight assists.
The Bucks entered the pivotal Monday night tip up 2-1 after winning Game 3 in dramatic fashion. The defending champions held off a late Celtics run that ended with missed tip-in opportunities to send the game to overtime.
And ninety minutes before tipoff, Robert Williams was announced as out with left knee soreness, making Game 4 the fifth game of eight Williams missed this postseason.
The Bucks started off on a 6-0 run through two minutes, as the Celtics offense committed a few fouls and turned the ball over early. As the defenses held strong, the Bucks kept a significant edge through six minutes, 13-6.
Milwaukee was consistently exposing the Celtics’ rotations and finding open looks behind the arc in the first. Up 19-11, the Bucks were 3/7 from deep.
Coming out of a timeout with three minutes left in the first, Boston picked up on the offensive end. Tatum hit a pull-up, then Horford nailed a three to cut the lead to five. But, the Bucks continued to work inside and stay strong defensively. The home team led 25-18 after one. Boston shot 8/22 from the floor.
The Celtics started the second with a Tatum-less lineup, hoping to limit him as he had two fouls. Down three, Tatum came back in and drilled a game-tying three, creating the first tie of the night at 31.
Boston took its first lead after Horford’s second three of the night, 34-33 with six and a half to go in the second quarter. Horford started 4/4 from the field and 2/2 from deep for 11 points.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Celtics offense found some footing by using pick and rolls with two guards, attempting to attack mismatches. Milwaukee’s size granted them mismatches too, the Bucks had nine offensive rebounds early for eight second-chance points.
Both teams struggled offensively, continuing the defensive trend established in the first three games. Each team was forced to rely more on fast break opportunities than half-court sets to score. Another slugfest resulted in a 48-47 halftime score, Milwaukee leading.
Tatum, Brown and Grant Williams struggled on offense, combining to shoot 7/22 from the floor. Smart had seven points and four assists, while playing good defense on Antetokounmpo. Horford led the Celtics in scoring with his 11 points on still-perfect 4/4 shooting. Tatum led the Celtics with seven rebounds at the break.
For Milwaukee, it was Antetokounmpo driving the bus, scoring 15 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Jrue Holiday was doing it all with seven points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Horford hit a playoff career-high on his fifth made three, reaching 27 points. The next possession he hit an and-one hook shot to reach 30, leading all scorers. He outscored the Bucks in the fourth 16-14 on his own with five minutes remaining.
As Antetokounmpo sat, the Celtics built their lead. Tatum hit back-to-back layups, including an and-one, awakening from a tough shooting night in the clutch. Smart drew a charge on Antetokounmpo up seven, then Tatum buried a pullup three to put Boston up 10.
The Celtics held on to even the series and gain a crucial victory. Tatum reached 30 to join Horford.