The Boston Celtics began their first round playoff series Sunday and did not disappoint. They won game one over the Milwaukee Bucks 113-107 in an overtime thriller at the Garden. They were led by their young core of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum. How far this team advances depends on how well these three play. Kyrie Irving is out for the remainder of the playoffs and Marcus Smart won’t be back until game seven at the earliest. Game one showed the character of this team and that even without Irving, they will still be competitive in the playoffs.
This game was entertaining from start to finish. The game went back and forth, as the Celtics outscored the Bucks in the first and third quarters while the Buck dominated the second and fourth. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 35 points and Kris Middleton scored 31. The Celtics scoring was more spread out, as they had five players who scored 10 points or more. The two players who made the most impact were twenty year old rookie Jayson Tatum and third year point guard Terry Rozier.
When the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to a gruesome injury in the season opener, Tatum’s role increased. For a rookie, that is a lot of responsibility, but that hasn’t fazed the twenty year-old. He’s carried this Celtics team at times this year, especially as injuries started to pile up. In his first career playoff game, the Duke product scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He was not fazed by the playoff stage, as he shot 44 percent from the field. He will be key for the Celtics in the playoffs as the Celtics look to make a deep run with an injury depleted roster.
Tatum was not the only young Celtic who stepped up. This season Terry Rozier has emerged as a clutch player. For the last two months of the season, Rozier was averaging 15 points a game. He stepped in for Kyrie Irving as he battled injuries and the Celtics did not seem to miss a beat. In Game one Rozier scored 23 points, and of the six three pointers he attempted, he only missed one. With less than five seconds left, he hit a three pointer which gave the Celtics a three point lead. This was a shot that not many young players have confidence in taking. Rozier made it look like it was a shot he takes every game.
This series between Milwaukee and Boston will be competitive. The Celtics young core showed on Sunday that they are ready for the challenge. They don’t have Irving or Hayward, but they do have some very talented young players who are ready to leave their mark.