Williams has 27, Celtics make 22 3-pointers in Game 7 rout Bucks

BOSTON (AP) — In the fog of the Celtics’ Game 5 loss to Milwaukee that left his team in a 3-2 hole in the series, Boston coach Ime Udoka made a prediction.

“It will make it sweeter when we recover,” he said.

Two wins later, the Celtics fulfilled their coach’s prophecy.

Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points and made seven 3-pointers, Jayson Tatum added 23 and Boston set a Game 7 record with 22 3-pointers to eliminate the NBA champion Bucks 109-81 on Sunday in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics will face top-seeded Miami starting Tuesday in a rematch of the 2020 East finals. The Heat beat the Celtics in six games in that series at Walt Disney World.

Tatum said his team embraced the “back against the wall” moments it faced in having to win the last two games after its late collapse in its previous game at home.

“As much as it hurt to lose Game 5, I was looking forward to that challenge,” Tatum said. “I believe in myself, I believe in this team. I expected to play like I did and that we would respond like we did.”

The Celtics trailed early in Game 7 before outscoring the Bucks 61-38 in the second half to cruise to victory. Boston used a massive 54-point lead behind the arc to improve to 25-9 in a deciding Game 7.

The Bucks are now 3-9. 4 of 33 (12.1%) went from the 3-point line. That’s the second-worst 3-point percentage in a playoff game (minimum 30 attempts).

Williams was timid at first, missing 5 of his first 7 3-point attempts. It was a pep talk he got from Jaylen Brown during a timeout after Williams passed an open shot that changed his mind.

“To me it was like they were rooting for him, he might as well take advantage,” Williams said. “Each one, as time went on, became more comfortable.”

Williams finished 7-for-18 from behind the arc. The Celtics shot 22 of 55.

It helped silence another relentless night from Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. But he was just 3-for-11 in the paint in the second half, including 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter.

“The shots I usually take didn’t go in. That’s basketball. That’s what sports are like,” Antetokounmpo said. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. There’s a winner. There’s a loser. You just have to live with it.”

Jrue Holiday added 21 points and eight assists. Brook López finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston started the second half on an 11-4 run to open a 59-47 lead.

It was 63-53 when Tatum went to the bench after being called for his fourth foul. But the Celtics rebounded without him, outscoring the Bucks 16-11 the rest of the quarter to take a 79-64 lead into the fourth.

Udoka said he has mostly been able to maintain tunnel vision during his first season as head coach, but said he allowed himself to catch the roar of the TD Garden crowd in the closing seconds.

He said being able to have Game 7 at home mattered. The Celtics won the final day of the regular season to earn the victory in this matchup as the Bucks rested their regulars and were eliminated 133-115 by Cleveland.

“This is what we play for, why we play all season, to have home court advantage in a Game 7,” Udoka said. “If you believe in the gods of basketball, those things matter.”

Brown said their coach has been the catalyst in putting them in this position.

“We didn’t want it to end. We didn’t get over all the things we did during the regular season for that to be it. .. At the end of the day, we wanted to go out, leave everything there. I think we did.


Bucks: There was a moment of silence before the game for the victims of mass shootings last week in Milwaukee and Buffalo. … F Khris Middleton missed his 10th straight playoff game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. … Milwaukee missed its last 11 3-point attempts of the first half.

Celtics: They shot 9-for-22 from 3-point range in the first half. … Patriots team owner Robert Kraft sat courtside, along with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.


Celtics center Robert Williams III was available to play after missing three straight games with pain and a bone bruise in his surgically repaired left knee. But he didn’t play.


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