After a violent, physical Game 4 against the Bucks, the Celtics can thank Al Horford for helping even the series with a 116-108 road victory.
The Celtics were on the ropes entering the fourth quarter after yet another collapse in the third, but Horford poured in 16 points in the period to lead them back. He dunked on Giannis Antetokounmpo and let loose a roar at a subdued Milwaukee crowd. He buried a pair of monstrous 3-pointers. He fired up a wild hook shot that fell through as he was fouled, which gave the Celtics a four-point lead.
Horford finished with 30 points on 11-for-14 shooting and 5-for-7 from deep. He looks rejuvenated, and the Celtics have a chance because of him. It’s unclear whether his 3-point shooting can stay at this level or if some amount of regression is inevitable, but the Celtics can thank the oldest player on the roster for giving them hope. A loss in Game 4, and the Celtics would have come crashing back down to earth after flying high since January — down 3-1 against a very tough team.
Instead, the Celtics reclaimed home-court advantage and relieved a whole heap of pressure. The series looks a lot different at 10:18 p.m. on Monday than it did at 9:20.
2. Jayson Tatum struggled for much of the game, but down the stretch when the Celtics needed reliable offense, he came through on several crucial possessions including a monstrous 3-pointer and this leaning layup that he impossibly willed through the net.
Tatum — who finished with 30 points on 11-for-24 shooting — didn’t have a dominant performance in his bounce back from an ugly Game 3 performance, but he was big in the moments that mattered and helped the Celtics salvage their season.
3. Jaylen Brown picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter trying (and failing) to guard Antetokounmpo. Brown struggled mightily when the Celtics let him get switched onto Antetokounmpo in Game 3, so they had plenty of warning, but Brown once again found himself facing Antetokounmpo on multiple unsuccessful occasions.
Maybe Brown didn’t like Antetokounmpo’s little push in his back in the fourth quarter, which prompted him to throw off Antetokounmpo’s conciliatory hand on his back, or maybe Brown was upset because Antetokounmpo spent much of the game hunting him. Either is plausible.
4. Marcus Smart scored a few crucial baskets in the fourth quarter and seemed to realize that certain Bucks matchups simply couldn’t contain him. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics hunt those matchups further going forward.
5. Give the Celtics a lot of credit: They beat the Bucks without Robert Williams, who sat out with knee soreness.
We will have more takeaways later this evening.
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