Nine points. Eleven seconds.
The Celtics beat the Bucks 113-107 in overtime in Game 1 of a first-round series on Sunday, but not before an insane back-and-forth-and-back-again sequence at the end of regulation.
With Boston up 96-93 thanks to a pair of Al Horford free throws, Milwaukee set up a side inbounds play with 15 seconds left. Giannis Antetokounmpo drove down the middle, as if preparing to take a quick two, before dishing to Malcolm Brogdon, who hit a game-tying three-pointer with 11.1 seconds left. But the fun was only beginning.
On the Celtics’ ensuing possession, guard Terry Rozier completely lost Eric Bledsoe off the dribble at the right angle. Presented with oceans of space, Rozier did his best Kyrie Irving impression, calmly draining a step-back three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left.
“Terry is a stud,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He's a hard-nosed guy, a competitive guy. He made some huge, huge plays there for us. The shot at the end of regulation was obviously the highlight of that.”
Rozier told reporters that Boston’s final play of regulation had three different options, and he decided to call his own number once Bledsoe fell for a feigned pass to Jayson Tatum.
“I gave [Tatum] the look and I kind of figured Bledsoe would bite,” Rozier said. “It allowed me to make a move and get to my step-back three. There was an option for me to shoot, or for [Tatum] to come off [to get a pass], or for [Marcus] Morris to slip to the basket. All three were options—I went with mine.”
While Rozier’s shot had all the hallmarks of a classic postseason game-winner, Milwaukee wasn’t done yet. With just a half-second on the clock, the Bucks inbounded to Khris Middleton, who launched a desperation three from 35 feet. It swished through after the buzzer sounded, and a replay review confirmed he pulled the trigger before time expired.
“Before the timeout, I asked Khris if he wanted the ball,” Antetokounmpo said. “He said, ‘Yes, give me the ball.’ … I looked at Tony [Snell], I looked at Bledsoe, then I looked at Khris. He was far away, but I didn’t have any other option. I gave the ball to Khris and he knocked the shot down.”
Bucks coach Joe Prunty and Middleton told reporters they ran through end-of-game plays to combat the Celtics’ defensive strategies in those situations.
“We’ve practiced that play for a couple weeks now, preparing for that moment,” Middleton told reporters. “Got a good look. Giannis was surveying the floor. It was a catch-and-shoot situation. If I get it in my hands, just let it go. Somehow it dropped in for me.”
Rozier didn’t hide his disappointment that his game-winning moment had been spoiled.
“I was mad as hell [Middleton] made that shot,” Rozier joked. “He hit a crazy shot with 0.5 seconds, that's tough. [Our mentality] going to overtime was to stay together and win this game.”
Indeed, Boston held on in overtime, as Milwaukee shot just 3-for-12 in the extra period and Antetokounmpo fouled out on a questionable call. Rozier secured a crucial defensive rebound and knocked down three clinching free throws to close out the win. He finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, noting that Irving had some encouraging words for him prior to his first career postseason start.
“His message is just go out there and take what’s yours,” Rozier said. “Go out there and dominate. Go kill. Don’t worry about what anybody is saying.”
Horford led the Celtics with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 35 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Game 2 is set for Boston’s TD Garden on Tuesday.