LOS ANGELES — Al Horford and Jaylen Brown hit 3-pointers in a 12-point, third-quarter flurry Sunday afternoon that erased a momentary deficit and propelled the visiting Boston Celtics to a 112-90 victory over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the opener of their Eastern Conference best-of-seven semifinal playoff series.
After beating the Bucks just once in three tries in the regular season, the fourth-seeded Celtics will look to go up 2-0 when the clubs tangle again in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
The Celtics led most of the game but found themselves down 56-54 after Brook Lopez nailed a 3-pointer in the second minute of the third quarter.
Boston responded with its 12-0 run, which Horford capped with his 3-pointer for a 66-56 lead with 7:37 left in the period.
The Celtics went on to lead by as many as 19 in the quarter and gradually pulled away in the final quarter after the Bucks rallied within 12.
Milwaukee’s comeback effort was handcuffed by the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo shot just 7-for-21 in the game. He nonetheless managed to lead the Bucks in scoring with 22 points.
Kyrie Irving was the game’s top scorer with 26 points, completing a double-double with a game-high 11 assists for the Celtics, who swept Indiana in the first round.
Horford made three 3-pointers to account for almost half his 20 points, while Brown finished with 19, Gordon Hayward 13 and Terry Rozier 11.
The Celtics outshot the Bucks 54.0 percent to 34.8.
Horford also had a double-double for Boston, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
Khris Middleton registered a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Bucks, who were held under 100 points just five times during the regular season before scoring 119 or more in all four games of their first-round sweep over Detroit.
The 22-point margin of defeat was Milwaukee’s largest of the season.
Nikola Mirotic was a third scorer in double figures for the Bucks with 13 points.
Milwaukee’s best stretch of the game came just past the midpoint of the second quarter, after it had fallen behind 40-25.
Mirotic had a pair of 3-pointers in a 15-0 run that drew the Bucks even, although the Celtics were able to reclaim a 52-50 lead by halftime.
DURANT HELPS WARRIORS DISPATCH ROCKETS
Kevin Durant scored nine of his team-high 35 points in the final 5:35 and Stephen Curry buried a back-breaking 3-pointer with 25.9 seconds remaining Sunday afternoon as the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Houston Rockets 104-100 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in Oakland, California.
The second game in the best-of-seven between the top-seeded Warriors and fourth-seeded Rockets is slated for Tuesday night in Oakland.
In a tight game that featured poor 3-point shooting and turnovers, the Warriors found themselves in an 89-89 tie with six minutes remaining before Durant took charge.
His two free throws with 5:35 left gave Golden State the lead for good, and his three subsequent free throws and two field goals seemingly put the Warriors in command at 100-95 with just 1:26 to go.
But a three-point play by James Harden got Houston back within two, before Curry countered with his 3-pointer that proved to be decisive.
A dunk by Harden with 21.3 seconds to go kept the Rockets alive, and when Chris Paul stole the ball from Durant, Houston had a chance at a tie.
But Paul was pressured into an awkward pass and Eric Gordon stepped out of bounds while retrieving it, allowing the Warriors to hold on.
Paul thought he was fouled on the play and argued the non-call, for which he received a second technical foul and was ejected from the game with 4.4 seconds left.
Curry made the foul shot to complete the scoring.
Durant shot 12-for-15 from the line during his 35-point outing for Golden State, which won despite committing 20 turnovers.
Curry (18 points), Andre Iguodala (14), Draymond Green (14) and Klay Thompson (13) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, who are attempting to win a third consecutive NBA title.
Green also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists to the win.
Harden matched Durant’s 35-point total, but shot just 4 of 16 on 3-pointers and was 9 of 28 overall. He made 13 of his 14 free throws.
Eric Gordon had 27 points and Paul 17 for the Rockets, who are playing the Warriors in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
The Rockets shot just 29.8 percent on 3-pointers, making 14 of 47. — Reuters