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Game 4 was like the Celtics' season: just as you started counting, everything changed

The Celtics once again found a way to overcome adversity, this time against the NBA's top player, with a crucial rally that made the series a best-of-3. (Author: Gardener)

Game 4Perhaps we should have known that the Celtics would find a way to put up a furious fight in the fourth quarter. Perhaps we should have known that the Celtics would find a way to put up a furious fight in the fourth quarter. After all, what the Celtics achieved Monday night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks was a pretty obvious microcosm of their season. Just when it became tempting to give them up, the Celtics became something special. Trailing 7 points at the start of the fourth quarter and trailing 3-1 in the series, the Celtics had an all-time performance from Al Horford, a superstar-level takeover of the track from Jayson Tatum and relentless performance after relentless performance from various another in a rousing 116-108 win in Milwaukee. The Celtics outplayed the Bucks 43-28 in the fourth quarter, hitting 16 of 19 shots after only making 26 of 65 in the first three frames. They kept attacking, scoring 48 points in the suit that night and undeterred in this heavyweight fight against the current champion. And they kept their composure and confidence even when Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best player in this galaxy and probably a few unseen others, flipped the switch to Unstoppable mode. "For us it was just a matter of moving on," said Marcus Smart, who scored 18 points, gave eight assists and returned to the paint for two important buckets in the fourth quarter. “Through all the mistakes we made, buckets they hit, free throws we gave up, turnovers and the game was just a 7-point game. That was very encouraging for us because we knew we could play better. We knew things would change for us as soon as we played better. We stuck to the game plan, we stayed together and we kept fighting.” As fitting as it may have been as a one-on-one game throughout the season, this win shouldn't be taken for granted. What the Celtics achieved on Monday night might have had something to do with their character, but it was also uniquely remarkable. Especially the extraordinary, explosive performance of the oldest and supposedly most docile Celtic. Al Horford has played 15 seasons in the NBA. He will be 36 next month. He often comes across as the team father, or at least the Celtic most closely related to a father joke. He's put up some terrific playoff performances in his career, including the last time we saw him scoring 22 points, picking up 16 rebounds and dishing out a team-high 5 assists in the Celtics' 103-101 Game 3 loss . But he's never been more aggressive, emotional or outright dominating than he was in the fourth quarter Monday night. Horford scored 16 of his 30 points - level on points with Tatum for the team high - in the fourth, 10 in the first four minutes of the quarter. About seven minutes into the quarter, Horford had beaten the Bucks 16-14. All six buckets were important, and some - like a stretch of 6 straight points when he buried a corner 3-pointer and then converted a conventional 3-point play with just over five minutes left - were crucial. But one piece will be remembered for a particularly long time. With 9:51 left, Horford punctuated a 10-0 run by the Celtics by driving the baseline past Antetokounmpo (34 points), hitting home a vicious dunk and pulling a foul on the Bucks superstar, who is used to to be the posterizer rather than the posterized. Horford, who caught a technical foul for elbowing Antetokounmpo in the dunk, screamed and clenched his fists in a celebration that was both uncharacteristic and fully deserved. From that point on, the Celtics outplayed the Bucks 35-27. The energy changed when Al's happened," Smart said. "It made him work and it made everyone else work." Horford has some serious Benjamin Button stuff on this show. He averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in his last two games, and he had to play 41 minutes and 36 seconds on Monday night because Robert Williams was out with knee pain. Don't ask how science handles it, but I think Horford may actually be younger now than he was all those years ago when he won two national titles at the University of Florida. "Man, we love Al," Smart said. When things go bad or good, he will be him. And nine times out of ten it will be in our favour.” Horford was exceptional. Tatum fielded a 30-13-5 line despite that bumpy start, took the baton from Horford, attacked the color and scored 10 points over the final 4:29. Support players like Smart and the rejuvenated Derrick White contributed throughout. Yes, Marcus, it all worked out in the Celtics' favor just when it seemed like it might not. It was the story of Game 4. It was the story of this season so far.

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3 things we learned from Celtics-Bucks Game 4 on Monday

The Boston Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 away in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series on Monday to level that series 2-2 before heading back to Boston. (Author: Gardener)

MondayThe Boston Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 away in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series on Monday to level that series 2-2 before heading back to Boston. This Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks has been a fantastic series so far. In Game 4 on Monday we had another spectacular game as the Celtics came back from a 7 point deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated the Bucks 116-108 away. Jayson Tatum had a great bounce back game with 30 points and 13 rebounds, but how about Al Horford in that game? Be sure to raise a glass to Horford as 30 points and 8 rebounds in 42 minutes for a 35 year old is extremely impressive! Because of their strength and intensity on the defensive end of the floor, Boston was able to come from behind on Monday night to steal Game 4, end that streak 2-2, and suddenly we have a "best-of-3" scenario that takes us was presented. Milwaukee haven't looked like a dominant self with Khris Middleton on the touchline, and now they face a tough task as they try to regain the lead in this series on the road. Khris Middleton is such an important part of the Milwaukee Bucks offensively because he sometimes acts as a "security blanket" due to his ability to parry shots from anywhere on the floor. For them, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the aggressive player and “attacker” on offense, Jrue Holiday is the facilitator and Khris Middleton ties everything together. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday were gassed at the end of the game after they both played 41 minutes and the Celtics looked like they could last another 5-10 minutes! Fatigue is starting to catch up with the Bucks' stars considering what they've had to do this series, and in Game 4, Antetokounmpo and Holiday accounted for nearly 58% of the team's total shot attempts. Someone will have to step in for Milwaukee in this series to progress, especially since Khris Middleton is likely to be out for at least another week. Father Time catches up to every athlete at some point in their career, but Al Horford shut the door on him in Game 4! Horford looked like his old All-Star self when he was with the Atlanta Hawks years ago when he scored 30 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and had a monster dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo... Yes, you read that right. Horford steps up when it matters most and he was fantastic in that series against Milwaukee. In four games, Horford averaged 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and he has shot 14-28 (50%) from three-point range. With three double-doubles in four games, Al Horford was the most influential player in this Eastern Conference semifinals series. In four games in that series, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday combined have accounted for nearly 58% of the Bucks' total shots in that series. Giannis averages 39.8 minutes per game and Holiday averages 38.9 minutes per game against Boston. Everything the Bucks do on offense flows through Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is fine, but they'll need to bring others on board if Milwaukee is to survive this series without Khris Middleton. As mentioned, the Bucks' depth didn't play that well, but at the same time, Holiday and Antetokounmpo struggled to incorporate them. In his two wins against the Celtics, Milwaukee has averaged 21.0 assists per game. That "hero ball" mindset of playing one-on-one with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday all the time didn't work for the Bucks, much like it didn't work for the Dallas Mavericks in their series against the Phoenix Suns. Luka Doncic is a great player for the Mavericks, but they lost the first two games of their streak by solely giving him the ball to make every possession one-on-one on offense. Now with others interfering and Doncic moving the ball, the Mavericks have won back-to-back games against the Suns to even reach their Western Conference Semifinals series. Taking notes from Dallas is something the Bucks really should be doing offensively given they are a very similar team with Khris Middleton. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an elite goalscorer and Jrue Holiday is a great free goalscorer, but these two alone can't turn the team on its back and beat arguably the best defensive team in the league, the Celtics. Getting others involved is vital for the Bucks in this series, and in Game 4, the two Milwaukee All-Stars attempt to put all the burden of winning that game on their backs, ultimately leading to their loss.

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Just as you started counting them, everything changed

The Celtics outplayed the Bucks 43-28 in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 116-108 win over Milwaukee. Learn more at Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

the fourth quarterPerhaps we should have known that the Celtics would find a way to put up a furious fight in the fourth quarter. After all, what the Celtics achieved Monday night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks was a pretty obvious microcosm of their season. Just when it became tempting to give them up, the Celtics became something special. Trailing 7 points at the start of the fourth quarter and trailing 3-1 in the series, the Celtics had an all-time performance from Al Horford, a superstar-level takeover of the track from Jayson Tatum and relentless performance after relentless performance from various another in a rousing 116-108 win in Milwaukee. The Celtics outplayed the Bucks 43-28 in the fourth quarter, hitting 16 of 19 shots after only making 26 of 65 in the first three frames. They kept attacking, scoring 48 points in the suit that night and undeterred in this heavyweight fight against the current champion. And they kept their composure and confidence even when Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best player in this galaxy and probably a few unseen others, flipped the switch to Unstoppable mode. "For us it was just a matter of moving on," said Marcus Smart, who scored 18 points, gave eight assists and returned to the paint for two important buckets in the fourth quarter. “Through all the mistakes we made, buckets they hit, free throws we gave up, turnovers and the game was just a 7-point game. That was very encouraging for us because we knew we could play better. We knew things would change for us as soon as we played better. We stuck to the game plan, we stayed together and we kept fighting.” As fitting as it may have been as a one-on-one game throughout the season, this win shouldn't be taken for granted. What the Celtics achieved on Monday night might have had something to do with their character, but it was also uniquely remarkable. Especially the extraordinary, explosive performance of the oldest and supposedly most docile Celtic. Al Horford has played 15 seasons in the NBA. He often comes across as the team father, or at least the Celtic most closely related to a father joke. He's put up some terrific playoff performances in his career, including the last time we saw him scoring 22 points, picking up 16 rebounds and dishing out a team-high 5 assists in the Celtics' 103-101 Game 3 loss . But he's never been more aggressive, emotional or outright dominating than he was in the fourth quarter Monday night. Horford scored 16 of his 30 points - level on points with Tatum for the team high - in the fourth, 10 in the first four minutes of the quarter. About seven minutes into the quarter, Horford had beaten the Bucks 16-14. All six buckets were important, and some - like a stretch of 6 straight points when he buried a corner 3-pointer and then converted a conventional 3-point play with just over five minutes left - were crucial. But one piece will be remembered for a particularly long time. With 9:51 left, Horford punctuated a 10-0 run by the Celtics by driving the baseline past Antetokounmpo (34 points), hitting home a vicious dunk and pulling a foul on the Bucks superstar, who is used to to be the posterizer rather than the posterized. Horford, who caught a technical foul for elbowing Antetokounmpo in the dunk, screamed and clenched his fists in a celebration that was both uncharacteristic and fully deserved. From that point on, the Celtics outplayed the Bucks 35-27. The energy changed when Al's happened," Smart said. Horford has some serious Benjamin Button stuff on this show. He averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in his last two games, and he had to play 41 minutes and 36 seconds on Monday night because Robert Williams was out with knee pain. Don't ask how science handles it, but I think Horford may actually be younger now than he was all those years ago when he won two national titles at the University of Florida. "Man, we love Al," Smart said. When things go bad or good, he will be him. And nine times out of ten it will be in our favour.” Horford was exceptional. Tatum fielded a 30-13-5 line despite that bumpy start, took the baton from Horford, attacked the color and scored 10 points over the final 4:29. Support players like Smart and the rejuvenated Derrick White contributed throughout. Yes, Marcus, it all worked out in the Celtics' favor just when it seemed like it might not. It was the story of Game 4. It was the story of this season so far.

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Five takeaways from Celtics-Bucks Game 4

Boston picked up a raucous Game 4 win over Milwaukee. What were the most important take-aways? (Author: Gardener)

Celtics-Bucks Game 4The Boston Celtics pulled off a brave win over the defending NBA champions Monday night at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, and now the Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are returning to the hub in a 2-2 draw. At the start of the game, the Celtics looked a bit fried, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and company were in control of the game. Boston showed real composure, pulling things together before absolutely flashing the Bucks in the fourth quarter. The Celtics won the final frame 43-28, thanks in part to a career game from veteran big man Al Horford and star forward Jayson Tatum, who found his offense at the right time. With Game 5 on deck, we take a look at what we learned from some sizzling second round actions on Monday night. Big Al has averaged 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 55/50/83 shooting splits so far in the series. He goes from stretching the ground with his steady three-point shooting to diving all over Giannis. Few players have the size and speed - especially at his age - to take on a player like the Greek Freak in a one-on-one and hold his own. Especially in the absence of Robert Williams III, Horford was invaluable to Boston. Jayson Tatum needs to keep attacking the rim During the 2021-22 regular season, Jayson Tatum looked like a true MVP contender. And at times during the playoffs, he was emphatically the best player on the floor. At the same time, however, Taco Jay struggled to really hit the ground running against the Bucks. This was the case for most of last night. Grounding the ball and attacking the rim in the second half of Game 4 seemed to wake Tatum up, and he needs to do more of the same. Big Deuce shoots a respectable 34% of 3 for streaks. He needs to keep attacking on the edge to really open up his offensive game. Finishing against Giannis and Brook Lopez is easier said than done, but Tatum has the length and size to do it (or get fouled in the process). Keep attacking, Jayson. Jaylen Brown needs a breath Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo has the ball from Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA Basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series Monday, May 9, 2022, in Milwaukee beaten away. Jaylen Brown was exceptional in this series against the Bucks. He was the undisputed hero of Game 2, and his efficient offense and pinpoint shots on goal are a crucial component of this style of Celtics basketball. He's averaging nearly four turnovers per game and also has a few stupid fouls or defensive errors under his belt. But sometimes he can call his own number a little too often and looked very shaken when he caught his fifth foul in Game 4. He just needs to channel his intensity and emotions a little more as the series progresses so he can continue doing his thing unencumbered. Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics makes a save from Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half of Game 4 of a playoff series in the NBA Basketball Eastern Conference semifinals Monday, May 9, 2022 in Milwaukee. Like Brown, Marcus Smart has to do his job and stay the course. Against the Nets, Smart posted an impressive 2.8 assist to turnover rate. Smart has truly evolved into one of the more effective "traditional" point guards in the NBA, and certainly one that suits this Boston team. After the trade deadline, Smart focused much more on the offensive quarterback. It's crucial for the Celtics. The Texas native finished Monday night's game with 8 assists, but it wasn't until the second half that he really settled down. He was particularly effective in the fourth quarter and it's this version of Marcus Smart that the Celtics fundamentally need. For most of Game 4, Giannis Antetokounmpo was exceptional. He finished the night with 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. And yet the Celtics clinched a win. Stopping, or more specifically managing, Giannis is vital for Boston. First, Boston returned to switches and doubles teams midway through Game 4. This seemed to confuse Milwaukee, certainly helped the Celtics mitigate some early troubles and left the Greek freak working all night to get his. As such, Giannis looked gassed in the final quarter as the C's turned up the temperature. Second, Boston must maintain its physical game against Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Bucks. The 3-point shot is open to the Celtics throughout the series. Attack Giannis and Brook Lopez on offense on the perimeter and don't be afraid to foul on defense. Boston has the talent, depth and brawn to win a protracted physical fight.

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The Boston Celtics reversed the script and equalized the Milwaukee Bucks shot for shot in Game 4 physical victory

Boston won Game 4 because they had more in the tank, but also because they can beat the Bucks at their own game with an unabashed style of play. (Author: Gardener)

Game 4We've been doing this all year." Boston guard Marcus Smart in the Celtics' dominant fourth quarter in Game 4. There is respect between these two teams. And some mind games are played. It's all going to be an exciting Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, which ended appropriately 2-2 after Boston's victory in Game 4, 116-108, Monday night at the Fiserv Forum Al Horford and the Boston Celtics achieved a physical intensity game with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks 4 of their conference semifinals series Monday night at the Fiserv Forum.But while the general audience here in Wisconsin is wowed by this Bucks team and enchanted by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the new mural of him towering over downtown, the Boston Celtics are not quite as amused.Boston won Game 4 because they had more in the tank at the end, but more importantly because the Celtics got the Bucks in theirs Being able to beat your own game with a physical, brave, unencumbered game and, most importantly, intrepid play. For example: When Antetokounmpo tangled on a rebound with Celtics guard Marcus Smart and they both fell to the ground, Smart offered Antetokounmpo his hand to help him get up. And as he has done for years, Antetokounmpo refused to recognize the fallen. But it irritated Smart. "I punched him out," Smart said. We got tangled up; I try to help him up. He does a good job making sure I don't get back into the game by holding me down. And then when I try to help him up, he throws his hand down. And then he raised his hand to help; and then when I tried to help, he took it back. "So I just thought, you know what, I'm done. I tried; I won't keep playing this game with you dude." Marcus Smart said @Giannis_An34 stopped him from getting to the next game etc. https://t.co/73EaaekDj2 pic.twitter.com/FQtxvP9ro4— Lori Nickel 🇺🇦 (@LoriNickel) May 10, 2022 Another example: Antetokounmpo successfully dove over Celtics forward Al Horford in the third quarter and taunted Horford as officials interpreted it It appeared to be just a look from Giannis - it was tough to say what, if anything, was said - but official Tony Brothers saw and/or heard something and T'd up Antetokounmpo Whatever was exchanged, Antetokounmpo's mean raid - once universally admired by fans - cheered Horford on. He nodded emphatically back in Antetokounmpo and seemed to say, "OK." Reporters are allowed to ask officials a question about a specific pool reporter immediately after a game, but the team weren't given one as a result on Monday night e asked questions. "Yes I do not know. I don't really know what he said to me," Horford told Id after the game, "but the way he looked at me and the way he acted really didn't suit me. In the game." When @Giannis_An34 😤 grimaced at Al Horford - and earned a tech - it didn't sit well with Horford. He wasn't sure exactly what Giannis had said. But it did flip a switch in Horford. pic. twitter.com/FvPJke0HeD - Lori Nickel 🇺🇦 (@LoriNickel) May 10, 2022 Horford went on offense and then took over the game, shortly after hitting a three-pointer and going 6-6 in the fourth quarter: two three-pointers, two jump shots and two buckets in the paint.One last example Horford dove on Antetokounmpo and erupted with his own emotions, aimed more at the general atmosphere of the arena than at anyone in particular.But a big roar went off in Fiserv - there was a significant crowd from Celtics there, or at least they were very boisterous – and Boston, already on an 8-0 run, leveled the game at 80, gleaning behind-the-game and rare emotion from their 35-year veteran, which earned him a dead-ball technical foul. "Big game. Big moment," Smart said. "Al still has it at this age, he can stand up like him. "I think you pick your spots, your moments," Horford said. "And that was an emotional game." Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said it's now a best-of-three series and the Bucks should be concerned. They have to get another win in Boston. Boston looks, acts and sounds like a trophy hunting team. Smart said that even with Boston 10 points behind, poor shooting and turning the ball -- Milwaukee were 15 points short of Boston's 10 turnovers in the last 12 minutes -- the Celtics were still positive. "We brought it down to seven through all the mistakes we made, our buckets, the free throws we gave up, turnovers," Smart said. “The game was just a seven-point game. That was very encouraging for us because we knew we could play better.” The over-the-top physical play – high even by playoff standards – again took its toll. When Antetokounmpo's driver pulled Horford's fourth foul in the fourth quarter, Giannis stayed on the pitch exhausted for quite a while. Smart was asked by the Boston media: Did he notice the Bucks looked gassed, particularly Antetokounmpo? Did you see that he looked tired or that he was taking a long time with his free throws? Both teams were. It was a physical game," Smart said. "The whole game. Bring the best players out there. Both teams were exhausted. "We were just trying to make sure we weren't the more tired team." After the game, Antetokounmpo came to the table for his post-game press conference and immediately turned over the final score/stats sheet laid out for him. He didn't want to see it. Already motivated to bounce back from a disappointing Game 3 they nearly won, the Celtics found more motivation to win Game 4. They finished the last quarter with 16 shots out of 19, which is an 84.2% odds. Is this finally a sign that two years of almost non-stop play — a pandemic-hit schedule, a championship running into mid-summer 2021, the Olympics, barely any off-season downtime — is catching up with the Bucks? Either way, the Celtics expect the best from the Bucks. They know what it takes, so they're not going to lay down or anything," Tatum said. "So I'm looking forward to coming back home, excited to play in front of our fans." Please consider supporting local journalism Support by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Boston Celtics reversed the script and took the Milwaukee Bucks bat for bat in the physical victory of Game 4

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A surprise change by Ime Udoka propelled the Celtics to a comeback win in Game 4

With the Celtics season at stake, Ime Udoka turned Game 4 with a lineup that had never played together. (Author: Gardener)

Game 4MILWAUKEE -- Robert Williams was injured, Jaylen Brown was in terrible trouble, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis were struggling and the Celtics season was suddenly on the verge of collapsing in the third quarter of Game 4 Giannis Antetokounmpo rolls offensively for a second straight season, Ime Udoka had to make a big decision. Udoka was often put to the test in the second half of the second half of the season by the Celtics and passed these tests with flying colors. However, some crucial subtle moves down the line helped unlock the best offensive fourth quarter we're likely to ever see in Celtics postseason franchise history. Theis got an understandable opportunity when Rob Williams picked up a pre-game scratch, but this wasn't his night from an offensive perspective (0 of 5 from the field). The trickier gamble moved away from Grant Williams, who played just one minute in the last 15 minutes of Game 4. Williams undoubtedly struggled on Monday night but his defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo has been an incredible resource throughout the series. Boston was already sacrificing a lot of size, without Rob Williams in the lineup and G. He was 2-of-11 from 3-point range in Milwaukee on most wide-open looks and his presence made it easier for the Bucks to keep multiple bigs on the ground and gets away with it defensively. It was time for Udoka to roll the dice and move away from one of his best Giannis stoppers for a possible compromise. It was quite a move on a night when the Bucks crushed Boston on offensive glass with second-chance points and lobs of their smaller size. However, the decision to go small prepared Boston to find the best version of his offense for the first time all season with a sensational offensive fourth quarter. With Brown in deep trouble, Udoka played with a three-man formation (White/Pritchard/Smart/Tatum/Horford) for the first six minutes of the final frame. Udoka had tried going small with Pritchard in small-ball lineups during the first half of the regular season, but Boston's defense had suffered tremendously from those early on, causing them to be mostly thrown aside. Pritchard's resurgence in the second half got him back into the rotation, but the team was rolling with bigger defensive lineups so the smaller look just wasn't needed. With Boston's season on the line, however, Udoka turned to the small look, hoping it would punish the Bucks' height and length advantage and open the floor for Boston's scorers. The group did just that, surpassing the Bucks 22-14 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before Jaylen Brown came back in with five fouls and stayed six minutes in the contest. Horford did a lot of damage during his career night, but make no mistake, the Boston guards' extra distance helped Horford get wide open looks and Tatum favorable matchups against smaller defenders. From there, Boston's top five lineup (White/Smart/Tatum/Brown/Horford) closed the door on the Bucks, breaking out midframe on a game-winning 15-2 run against Milwaukee's larger lineup featuring Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo the front line. Meanwhile, Boston's defense stood tall despite their size disadvantage, with Derrick White shining the brightest by forcing the Bucks to shoot 0-of-12 from the field while serving as a primary defender. Marcus Smart also appeared as a regular main defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo, helping to limit him to just six points in the final frame even without Boston's usual size around him. Ultimately, the run resulted in the Bucks pulling Brook Lopez out of the lineup and matching to go small, opening the door for Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart to bat the Bucks away late with clutch baskets in the paint against a less-imposing Bucks defense . This was an epic fight of a series in four games against two heavyweights, but Udoka may have unlocked the key to the series by returning to a smaller lineup he's strayed from for months. The Celtics won't turn off the lights every night in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks don't look like they have the staff to keep up with Boston when they go small, especially if Khris Middleton falls from the herd. Postseason is all about customization and Udoka did some of his best work in Game 4.

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"The Al Horford Game" deserves a place in Celtics playoff history

Al Horford defied Father Time on Monday night and delivered the playoff game of his life when the Celtics needed it most. Chris Forsberg reflects on 'The Al Horford Game' and the performance that may have saved Boston's season. (Author: Gardener)

The Al Horford GameMILWAUKEE — The typically stoic Al Horford couldn't stop bowing to Milwaukee fans while Giannis Antetokounmpo lay on the floor at the Fiserv Forum after accidentally snapping a left arm in the face of the soon-to-be 36-year-old Horford missed the former NBA -MVP a thunderous and unlikely slam in the fourth quarter to level Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinals series. At that moment the Al Horford Game was born. Right now it's somewhere behind The Kelly Olynyk Game in size and improbability, but so much of what happens next could raise it quickly. It felt like the Celtics had spoiled a potential Horford game two days earlier when they fumbled a lead in the final minute of a Game 3 loss. With Boston's season on life support, as the Bucks stretched their lead to double digits in the second half of Game 4 and the Cs were plagued with nasty troubles, Horford refused to let that season go by. Motivated by Antetokounmpo's trash talk midway through the third quarter, Horford broke out in the second half with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He made a trio of 3-pointers in key moments, but it was the dunk that could soon linger among iconic Celtics playoff moments depending on what happens in the rest of this series and in the postseason. In a small pick and pop with Marcus Smart, Horford watched Antetokounmpo flap from close range to deny a 3-point try. He didn't fire himself from a cannon — he's 35 again — but with classic Paul Pierce-how-does-he-move-so-fast vibes, Horford attacked the baseline and delivered the right-handed flush. Horford was rated as technical on the forearm; Antetokounmpo got a whistle for fouling him on the dunk. The episode left the game tied at 81, but Boston would soon be edging away for a 116-108 triumph that sends the series back to TD Garden 2-2. No one could have imagined that when Brad Stevens traded Kemba Walker and a first-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for Horford a year ago. The Celtics made the move for Horford to increase salary cap flexibility, and swallowed the pick hard because Horford's familiarity with Boston's key pieces raised hopes he could turn back the clocks a bit. Horford, who appeared to be struggling to stay upright at the end of his first Celtics go-around in 2019 with knees sore from miles away, looked incredibly sprightly, while the 27-year-old MVP on the other hand was bent over with exhaustion by the end of Game 4. The Celtics needed a jolt and Horford gave it to them. Boston played without Horford's frontcourt partner Robert Williams after suffering a late-stage scratch from left knee pain. Jaylen Brown was taped to the bench for part of the second half with foul problems. Celtics Talk: 'The Al Horford Game' - Celtics stun Bucks to tie series | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube "I'm usually just going about my business," Horford said as he was peppered with questions about the last time he'd shown so much emotion. And this was an emotional game." It's been a bumpy ride since he left Boston in 2019. Horford spent much of the following season on the Oklahoma City sidelines, but it rejuvenated his physique and positioned him to thrive in Boston. Horford, aided by a familiarity with first-year coach Ime Udoka from their time together in Philadelphia, quickly established himself as a regular and was instrumental in Boston becoming the NBA's best defense that season. The Celtics went this one Careful about his health this season, and the reward is that Horford is playing his best basketball despite having 78 games on the odometer this year. After nurturing that core during his first stint in Boston, Horford was only to have a supporting role in this playoff run. As was great for me," said Tatum, who drove some of Horford's energy to finish the game. "I was fortunate to pay with Al for three years and I remember coming my rookie year am and I've seen Al Horford. I've watched him play my whole life and it was great to see someone taking care of their body, just being the ultimate pro, the ultimate teammate and just all about the right things." No one can ever say anything about Al, and he's been a huge help to me over the three years we've played together."I mean, that was a hell of a game," Tatum said. "Especially every time Al die Turning the clock back and looking like the old man doing those dunks gets everyone off the bench. And Al plays with so much passion. When Al plays that passionately, everyone has to follow." two seasons in Milwaukee spi elt, proud as he watched his son Tito was among the first to greet his son after he left the pitch following his post-match TV interview and you can tell the 56-year-old father is puffed up with pride . However, there is still work to be done to ensure the Al Horford Game occupies a high place in Celtics lore. Boston has regained home field advantage, however, and two of their potential last three games of this series will be at the TD Garden. With teams playing every other day, Horford will find it difficult to maintain a high level of play. Grant Williams keeps raving about how Horford plays like he's 28 rather than 35. "Al is — man, we love Al," said Marcus Smart. "He's one of the best vets we've ever had. The best vet I've ever had. Whether things go badly or well, he will be him and nine times out of ten it will work out in our favor. Smart rarely hides his feelings. But he admitted it's rarer to see those feelings from Horford. But when we see it, it's a sight and we love it," Smart said.

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Warriors, Celtics finish strong, and yes Nikola Jokic deserves to be MVP

The Celtics fired reigning champion Bucks by 43 points in the fourth while the Warriros didn't take the lead until there was less than a minute into the game (Author: Gardener)

Nikola JokicTheWarriors led exactly 45.7 seconds last night. The good news for them: It was the last 45.7 seconds of the game. Golden State used a late surge to get past Memphis 101-98 and take a 3-1 lead in the series. * Stephen Curry had 32 points and eight assists, and Andrew Wiggins had his first playoff double-double of his career: 17 points and 10 rebounds. * The Warriors won despite only going 9-for-37 with 3 points. * Mike Brown was the Warriors' head coach after Steve Kerr. After an offensive masterpiece in Game 3, the Warriors needed an ugly win in Game 4. Even Curry looked kind of off despite his final stats, writes NBA reporter Brad Botkin. * Botkin: "Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 32 points, which were game-high, but he needed 25 shots to get there. He hit only four of his 14 3-pointers but finished the game with eight clutch free throws and 18 points in the fourth quarter. Curry, who's been fantastic in paint and rim all postseason, is off with his 3-point shooting and missing wide-open looks fairly regularly. ALSO GOOD MORNING TO THE BOSTON CELTICS Last night, the Celtics finished as strong as any team you'll ever see, beating Milwaukee 43-28 in the fourth quarter to beat the Bucks 116-108 and even the series with 2 -2 to beat . * Al Horford, playing in his 132nd playoff game, had a playoff career-high 30 points. Jayson Tatum also had 30 as well as 13 rebounds and five assists. * Horford and Tatum became the first Celtics duo to score 30+ points in the same playoff game since Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in 2011. * Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists but was shooting under 50 percent 32) for the third time in four games of the series. Horford's influence was vital throughout the game, but especially in the fourth quarter when his dunk over Antetokounmpo spurred the Celtics' final run, notes NBA pundit Jack Maloney. * Maloney: “When Horford put Giannis on a poster, not only was it an incredible highlight; it was an emotional surge for a team that struggled nearly two full games in Milwaukee to make anything work. While the Celtics had already fought back - with the free throws decided and the game going 81-81 - they now had the energy to finish the show. From that point on, the Celtics outplayed the Bucks 35-27 and seemed to be the best his fresher team." * Nestor Cortes, as the Yankees won again. * Atlanta United and USMNT standout defenseman Miles Robinson is likely to miss the World Cup. Nikola Jokic is reportedly once again the NBA's most valuable player. The Superstar Center of The Nuggets beat Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo to become the 15th player to win multiple NBA MVPs and the 13th to walk back-to-back Although we won't know the exact number of votes until the official announcement in the coming days, it was a hotly debated race.* Jokic led the league in terms of Win Shares, Player Efficiency Rating (his 32.8 PER this year was the highest in the NBA History), Box Plus/Minus and Value Over Replacement Player. How about this: Jokic became the first player ever to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. * He's also increased his points, rebounds, field goal percentage, steals and blocks from last season when, as you know, he was MVP. * He led the league in triple-doubles (19) and double-doubles (66). * The Nuggets outscored opponents by 444 points while he was down. They were outscored by 225 points when he wasn't. Monty Williams, who was named Coach of the Year, also receives an honor he deserves. Williams won the award ahead of Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies) and Erik Spoelstra (Heat). * It's the first time Williams has won the award. * He is the third Suns coach to win it, after Mike D'Antoni (2005) and Cotton Fitzsimmons (1989). * During the regular season, Phoenix went 18-6 without Deandre Ayton, 11-6 without Chris Paul, and 8-6 without Devin Booker. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors has announced new guidelines regarding name, likeness and likeness. * Jeyarajah: “The guide clarifies existing rules that specifically prohibit boosters from recruiting either through interaction or direct aid to recruits. The new clarification specifically targets so-called “collectives” formed by booster factions to sign prospective student-athletes from either high school or the transfer portal to contracts. By definition, a Booster is “any third party that promotes an athletics program, assists with recruitment, or assists in providing benefits to recruits, enrolled student-athletes, or their family members.” “We've been into the MLB season a little over a month and the teams in the big market are thriving: Los Angeles and New York teams have 42 games over .500 combined and all four are leading their respective divisions. Dodgers (last week: 4) - "They were the best team all along." Yankees (last week: 3) -- "Yeah, I was considering them for the top spot. Mets (last week: 1) -- "Lead the Mets in with the Yankees' response above... There's three elite teams now and then a breakup." Angels (last week: 4) - "As much as I hated Mike Trout's ninth Sunday strike, so very much loved Shohei Ohtani's doubles and Anthony Rendon's walk-off singles nice reminder for the masses that this can be a well-rounded team where Trout doesn't have to do everything." Meanwhile, the Astros, owners of the MLB's longest active winning streak (seven straight), the biggest jumpers and moved up from 14th to 6th * Snyder: "The most notable thing about their seven-game winning streak? Runs allowed per game: 0, 0, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0." Former Michigan State star Adreian Payne died yesterday at the age of 31 after being shot. The Orange County Sheriff's Department arrested Lawrence Dority on a warrant for first-degree murder Payne was a two-time All-Big Ten pick with the Spartans and made national headlines after befriending Lacey Holsworth, a young Michigan State fan, who had terminal cancer and died in April 2014 in East Lansing, Payne was drafted 15th overall by the Hawks in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Magic renounced Payne in 2018 after a story revealed that he and teammate Keith Appling were investigated for sexual assault while they were in Michigan State. Appling publicly stated that the relationship was consensual.

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Veteran Al Horford was dunked and secured Celtic's NBA playoffs Game 4 win over Bucks

35-year veteran Al Horford is a big reason the Boston Celtics are going home 2-2 with their playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks. (Author: Gardener)

Veteran Al HorfordAl Horford navigated a difficult 2020-21 season with Oklahoma City Thunder. Playing in just 28 games, he was inactive for the final seven weeks of the season, waiting for something better. Al Horford drives around Giannis Antetokounmpo during Game 4 at the Fiserv Forum. He wasn't part of the Thunder's future, unsure of his future, but he knew he needed a new team. Horford found a new team that happened to be his old team, the Boston Celtics, where he played from 2016-2019. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. When Boston acquired him in an offseason trade that sent Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City, Horford's sister Anna tweeted "WE'RE BACK BABY" with the requisite shamrock emojis. A key part of Boston's regular-season rotation, Horford excelled in the playoffs and is the reason the Celtics are tied 2-2 with the Milwaukee Bucks in an Eastern Conference semifinals series. In Boston's 116-108 win in Game 4 on Monday, Horford had a playoff career-high 30 points and had eight rebounds and three assists. He scored 16 points in the crucial Boston fourth quarter, in which the Celtics outplayed the Bucks 43-28. "I was really just locked up," Horford said. “I understood the moment (and) what we needed to do as a group. He made 11-for-14 shots from the field, including 5-for-7 3s, and helped the Celtics close a 10-point deficit on the road in the third quarter. During a two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, Horford had nine of Boston's 11 points, including a massive dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Very emotional and for our group it got us even more energized at that point,” Horford said. Early in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo dived in at Horford and gave him a snarling look, resulting in a technical foul for Antetokounmpo. "I don't know what he said to me, but the way he looked at me and the way he acted really didn't suit me," Horford said. "At this point I think something has changed for me in the game." He was making back-to-back baskets later in the fourth, finally giving Boston the lead. "We told him to be extremely aggressive," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. At 35, he is second-round history for the Celtics and his veteran presence has a reassuring effect on a young and talented team. "He's the best vet we've ever had," said Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Whether things go badly or well, he will be him and nine times out of ten it will work out in our favor. He was needed a lot and he pushed himself hard for us and helped us secure that win." Against Milwaukee, Horford averaged 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1. 3 steals and shoots 54.9% from field and 50% to 3-pointers. Along with teammate Grant Williams, Horford was the main defender at Antetokounmpo. And while Antetokounmpo scored 42 points in Game 3, the Celtics made scoring difficult for him. Antetokounmpo shoots 43.9% from the field, with 12.5% ​​on 3-pointers - well below his season average. Horford has held Antetokounmpo on 16-for-49 shooting in the series. ... Those are the moments I want to be a part of," Horford said. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Veteran Al Horford Dunk, Keyed Celtics' NBA Playoffs Game 4 Victory vs. Bucks | opinion

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Warriors, Celtics finish strong, and yes Nikola Jokic deserves to be MVP

The Celtics fired reigning champion Bucks by 43 points in the fourth while the Warriros didn't take the lead until there was less than a minute into the game (Author: Gardener)

Nikola JokicThe Warriors led exactly 45.7 seconds last night. The good news for them: It was the last 45.7 seconds of the game. Golden State used a late surge to get past Memphis 101-98 and take a 3-1 lead in the series. * Stephen Curry had 32 points and eight assists, and Andrew Wiggins had his first playoff double-double of his career: 17 points and 10 rebounds. * The Warriors won despite only going 9-for-37 with 3 points. * Mike Brown served as the Warriors' head coach after Steve Kerr. After an offensive masterpiece in Game 3, the Warriors needed an ugly win in Game 4. Even Curry looked kind of off despite his final stats, writes NBA reporter Brad Botkin. * Botkin: "Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 32 points, which were game-high, but he needed 25 shots to get there. He hit only four of his 14 3-pointers but finished the game with eight clutch free throws and 18 points in the fourth quarter. Curry, who's been fantastic in paint and rim all postseason, is off with his 3-point shooting and missing wide-open looks fairly regularly. ALSO GOOD MORNING TO THE BOSTON CELTICS Last night, the Celtics finished as strong as any team you'll ever see, beating Milwaukee 43-28 in the fourth quarter to beat the Bucks 116-108 and even the series with 2 -2 to beat . * Al Horford, playing in his 132nd playoff game, had a playoff career-high 30 points. Jayson Tatum also had 30 as well as 13 rebounds and five assists. * Horford and Tatum became the first Celtics duo to score 30+ points in the same playoff game since Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in 2011. * Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists but was shooting under 50 percent 32) for the third time in four games of the series. Horford's influence was vital throughout the game, but especially in the fourth quarter when his dunk over Antetokounmpo spurred the Celtics' final run, notes NBA pundit Jack Maloney. * Maloney: “When Horford put Giannis on a poster, not only was it an incredible highlight; it was an emotional surge for a team that struggled nearly two full games in Milwaukee to make anything work. While the Celtics had already fought back - with the free throws decided and the game going 81-81 - they now had the energy to finish the show. From that point on, the Celtics outplayed the Bucks 35-27 and seemed to be the best his fresher team." * Nestor Cortes, as the Yankees won again. * Josh Naylor - all in the eighth inning or later - in the Guardians' comeback win over the White Sox. * Atlanta United and USMNT standout defenseman Miles Robinson, will likely miss the World Cup. Nikola Jokic is reportedly again the NBA's most valuable player. The Nuggets' superstar center beat Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo to become the 15th player to win multiple NBA MVPs and the 13th, who went back-to-back.While we won't know the exact vote counts until the official announcement in the coming days, it was a hotly debated race.* Jokic led the league in reference to Win Shares, Player Efficiency Rating (his 32.8 PER this year was the highest in NBA history), Box Plus/Minus, and Value Over Replacement Player. How about this: Jokic became the first player ever to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. * He's also increased his points, rebounds, field goal percentage, steals and blocks from last season when, as you know, he was MVP. * He led the league in triple-doubles (19) and double-doubles (66). * The Nuggets outscored opponents by 444 points while he was down. They were outscored by 225 points when he wasn't. Monty Williams also gets an honor he deserves. He was named Coach of the Year after leading the Suns to an NBA-best and franchise-record 64-18 regular season. Williams won the award ahead of Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies) and Erik Spoelstra (Heat). * It's the first time Williams has won the award. * He is the third Suns coach to win it, after Mike D'Antoni (2005) and Cotton Fitzsimmons (1989). * During the regular season, Phoenix went 18-6 without Deandre Ayton, 11-6 without Chris Paul, and 8-6 without Devin Booker. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors has announced new guidelines regarding name, likeness and likeness. * Jeyarajah: “The guide clarifies existing rules that specifically prohibit boosters from recruiting either through interaction or direct aid to recruits. The new clarification specifically targets so-called “collectives” formed by booster factions to sign prospective student-athletes from either high school or the transfer portal to contracts. By definition, a Booster is “any third party that promotes an athletics program, assists with recruitment, or assists in providing benefits to recruits, enrolled student-athletes, or their family members.” * The Texas 'charity' — Horns with Heart — which provides a minimum of $50,000 to each offensive grantee The New York teams have a combined 42 games over .500, and all four lead their respective divisions. Dodgers (last week: 4) - "They were the best team all along." Yankees (last week: 3) -- "Yeah, I was considering them for the top spot. Mets (last week: 1) -- "Lead the Mets in with the Yankees' response above... There's three elite teams now and then a breakup." Angels (last week: 4) - "As much as I hated Mike Trout's ninth Sunday strike, so very much loved Shohei Ohtani's doubles and Anthony Rendon's walk-off singles nice reminder for the masses that this can be a well-rounded team where Trout doesn't have to do everything." Meanwhile, the Astros, owners of the MLB's longest active winning streak (seven straight), the biggest jumpers and moved up from 14th to 6th * Snyder: "The most notable thing about their seven-game winning streak? Runs allowed per game: 0, 0, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0." Former Michigan State star Adreian Payne died yesterday at the age of 31 after being shot. The Orange County Sheriff's Department arrested Lawrence Dority on a warrant for first-degree murder Payne was a two-time All-Big Ten pick with the Spartans and made national headlines after befriending Lacey Holsworth, a young Michigan State fan, who had terminal cancer and died in April 2014 in East Lansing, Payne was drafted 15th overall by the Hawks in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Magic renounced Payne in 2018 after a story revealed that he and teammate Keith Appling were investigated for sexual assault while they were in Michigan State. Appling publicly stated that the relationship was consensual.

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