Boston’s Poised Youngsters Help Lead Game 1 Charge Over Bucks
BOSTON – Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum all made their first career postseason starts Sunday afternoon, but the poise they all showed during Boston’s Round 1, Game 1 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks would’ve made the average viewer believe they had been in such a position on countless occasions before.
All three youngsters came out playing like seasoned veterans, combining for 62 points over a total of 130 minutes, all while helping to guide the Celtics to a 113-107 overtime win at TD Garden.
“We’re the three youngest guys, especially in the starting lineup, but we’ve had significant experience throughout this season due to injuries,” said 20-year-old Tatum, who finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. “We’ve been in tough games, so I think that really helped us out today.”
Tatum was responsible for igniting the C’s early on, scoring a game-high eight points on 4-of-4 shooting during the first quarter. The rookie experienced a lull after that, missing seven consecutive shots from the beginning of the second quarter through the majority of the third quarter, but finished off strong with a 4-of-7 clip down the final stretch.
“I was excited, but I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Tatum, who joined Tom Heinsohn and Bill Russell as the only Celtics rookies to log a double-double during his first postseason start. “It was a lot of fun. I’ve always dreamed of this moment playing in my first playoff game. It helped we were at home and we had our home crowd behind us and we got the first win.”
Brown had a great time feeding off of the crowd as well. The 21-year-old, second-year wing hit multiple big shots over the course of the game, tallying 20 points while also dishing out a game-high-tying four assists. The C’s dominated when he was on the court, evidenced by his game-high plus-18 rating – an impressive mark for such a tight match.
Displaying such poise at such a young age, while also playing on the biggest stage, allowed Brown and Tatum to earn some extra respect from their teammates.
“They’re not young no more,” Rozier said with a smile. “If you get to start in the Playoffs, whether it’s your first or second year, it’s time – it’s time to grow up. We need them, and they know that. And those guys, they do a lot for this team, so it’s just great to see them succeed at what they’re doing, to do it at a high level and do it on this playoff run we’re going on.”
Rozier’s poise may have been the most impressive of all. His shooting percentage wasn’t as high as either Brown’s or Tatum’s, but the timeliness of his shots was crucial to the Celtics’ success down the stretch.
Rozier’s biggest shot came with 0.5 seconds left in the game, when he knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer that put the Celtics on top, 99-96.
It looked like that shot would go down as the game-winner, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton crushed the storybook ending with a 36-foot heave at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
As demoralizing as Middleton’s shot was, Rozier didn’t hang his head. Instead, he came out for overtime and put the C’s on his back, scoring eight of Boston’s 14 points during the five-minute period to help guide them to victory lane.
It was certainly the highlight moment of his postseason career.
“This is my third year in the league, third year in the Playoffs and it just keeps getting better,” said 23-year-old Rozier, who tallied 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, all while not turning the ball over a single time. “It’s unfortunate what happened to our teammates throughout the whole year (in regard to the numerous injuries), but we still got each other, and we still got to fight, still got to win. I just love playing with these guys and they give me all the confidence in the world.”
Having such confidence will be key for the Celtics’ youngsters moving forward through the postseason grind, so it was vital for them to start out on a high note.
“Those guys lived a lot of what the Playoffs are about today,” said C’s coach Brad Stevens. “The good news is that they’ve got now a little bit of experience and know how hard it is, know how detailed you have to be to finish a team out, which we weren’t, obviously, at the end of regulation. Hopefully we’re better in that situation as the series goes on But, it’s hard – it’s hard to win. And that’s what you learn in these games.”
Consider it a lesson learned and a lesson passed for Boston’s trio of young go-getters during their first respective postseason starts.