BOSTON -- The Celtics were on the ropes without one of their top fighters Tuesday. But they still threw a mean counterpunch.
Despite missing starting point guard Marcus Smart due to a right quad contusion, the Celtics jumped out to an early double-digit lead against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and never looked back, rolling to a 109-86 win at TD Garden to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Jaylen Brown delivered the biggest blow with a game-high 30 points, 17 of which came in the first quarter. Jayson Tatum added 29 points while the Celtics hit a franchise-record 20 3-pointers (20 of 43) to bounce back from an ugly 101-89 loss in Game 1.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists but shot just 40.7 percent (11 of 27) with five turnovers. He was the only Milwaukee player to reach 20 points, as the Celtics' defense limited the Bucks to just three 3-pointers on 18 attempts.
The teams will have an extended layoff before Game 3, which is Saturday in Milwaukee. Here are our takeaways from an impressive Boston win at the Garden:
Jaylen Brown came to ball
Brown was the first one in the building Tuesday, arriving about three hours before tip to get some extra shots up after scoring just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in Game 1.
That extra work clearly helped: Brown exploded a playoff career-high 17 points in the first quarter, hitting six of his first seven shots and dropping Grayson Allen with a filthy crossover.
Brown had 25 points by halftime and missed just five shots (10 of 15) while committing just two turnovers, looking like a completely different player after his rough Game 1.
The Celtics need Brown to be at least the third-best player on the floor to have success in this series. On Tuesday, he was the best, giving Boston a huge boost in Smart's absence.
Boston has a three party
After making just 18 of their playoff career-high 50 3-pointers in Game 1, the Celtics continued to chuck in Game 2. The results were night and day.
Boston swung the pendulum by shooting 46.5 percent from beyond the arc, using some terrific ball movement to get open 3-point looks.
The Bucks allowed the most 3-point attempts in the NBA this season at 40.2 per game. Their game plan is to clog the paint and make you beat them from deep, and in Game 1, that strategy worked like a charm.
The Celtics were undeterred in Game 2, though, continuing to space the floor to take what Milwaukee gave them on the outside. They also took fewer contested attempts in the paint, displaying patience to hunt for open shots that proved to be the difference in this one.
Grant Williams steps up on both ends
Grant Williams continues to be an very reliable two-way player off the bench for Boston.
Williams contributed to the offensive attack with a career-high 21 points on 7 of 14 percent shooting while knocking down six 3-pointers.
But his most impressive work came on the defensive end, where he held his ground and then some against Antetokounmpo: The NBA MVP runner-up had just five points at halftime on 2 of 12 shooting with Williams matched up 1-on-1 with him for much of the half.
Giannis scored 23 in the second half to finish with an impressive stat line, but this is the second straight game he's struggled offensively. That's a recipe for success with Boston.
Points don't tell full story with Derrick White
White replaced Smart in the starting lineup and had an abysmal offensive performance according to the box score: 0 points on 0-of-6 shooting.
The veteran guard made his impact in other areas, though. He tallied five assists and kept the ball moving on offense while playing solid defense on Jrue Holiday and Milwaukee's guards to finish as a plus-22.
That playmaking and defense was the reason Ime Udoka started White and played him 28 minutes compared to Payton Pritchard's 23. While Pritchard is the superior shooter, White better fits what Boston wants to do on both ends: zip the ball around on offense and switch everything on defense.