BOSTON — The best way to avoid getting destroyed by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in transition is to make every shot, and the Boston Celtics gave perfection a run in the opening half on Tuesday night.
Jaylen Brown scored 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting (5 of 5 from 3-point range) in the first two quarters, and the Celtics made 13 of their 20 mostly open 3-point attempts to take a 25-point lead at the break. It was more than enough to hold off the Bucks when the 3s went cold and Antetokounmpo got hot in the third quarter. Boston cruised to a 109-86 win in Game 2 to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
Brown finished with 30 points. Jayson Tatum (29 points) did the bulk of Boston’s damage in the second half. Grant Williams (21 points), Al Horford (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Robert Williams III (10 points) also reached double figures for the host Celtics, who outscored Milwaukee 60-9 at the 3-point line.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 28 points (11-27 FG), nine rebounds, seven assists and six turnovers.
The Eastern Conference semifinals heads to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Saturday at 3:30 pm ET (TNT).
Brown scored 10 points on four shots in the opening six minutes, nearly matching his output from Game 1, as Boston stormed to an 18-3 advantage. The Celtics made five of their first six 3-pointers, and a replay review waived off the sixth that would have pushed their lead to 18 in the final minutes of the first quarter.
The Bucks leveraged the shot-clock violation and two beneficial whistles to close the gap to single digits. Antetokounmpo steamrolled Brown at midcourt, and Tatum pulled the chair on Jrue Holiday, resulting in a pair of Boston fouls and four Milwaukee points — some of the easiest the Bucks managed against a stifling Celtics defense. Antetokounmpo missed his first six field-goal attempts before his dunk cut the deficit to 27-19.
Another Brown 3-pointer and a last-second Tatum layup in the final minute of the first quarter pushed Boston’s lead back to 11, and they never relented. The Celtics pushed the lead to 65-40 by halftime, connecting on 13 of their 20 3-point attempts — most of them wide open — and 59% of their field goals.
The Celtics did not even require the services of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat with the right quad contusion he suffered in Game 1. Boston coach Ime Udoka quickly brought Grant Williams into the game to help against Antetokounmpo. He and Horford held the two-time MVP to five points on 2-for-12 shooting in the first half, before Antetokounmpo’s brute force created some second-half offense.
Milwaukee’s 10-0 run midway through the third quarter cut the deficit to 72-56, but Grant Williams’ fourth 3-pointer of the night pushed Boston’s lead back to 19. The Bucks got within 94-82 on two Antetokounmpo free throws with 4 :30 remaining in the game, but the Celtics had a counterpunch to every Milwaukee flurry.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach