Bucks up Ante, spoil Celtics’ emotional home opener
BOSTON — Jason Kidd had to wonder how his young Milwaukee Bucks team would respond to an emotional night at TD Garden, a night when Boston Celtics fans were inspired by a video message from one of their stars in a hospital bed.
But Kidd also had Giannis Antetokounmpo on his side — and that was more than enough to spoil Boston’s home opener Wednesday night.
“We always set the bar high for Giannis, but for his opening-day performance, he set the bar high now, and we’re going to hold him to that,” Kidd said after Antetokounmpo scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Bucks to a season-opening 108-100 victory over Boston.
Even though he didn’t score a basket in the first quarter, Antetokounmpo tied Michael Redd for the second-most points by a Buck in a season opener. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record with 41 — the same as Antetokounmpo’s career high set last season. It was the fourth time in his career he scored at least 35.
“I think we’re capable of doing big things this year,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re just got to stay focused, stay grounded, and try to have the same mentality.
“We’re the underdogs. We’re not a big-market team, we’re not a big team, we’re young, so we’ve just got to play with a chip on our shoulder and hopefully this season we can be one of the best teams in the East.”
The Celtics, who lost for the second straight night under the cloud of the gruesome injury sustained by newcomer Gordon Hayward in Cleveland on Tuesday, appeared to tire late in the game as the Bucks turned a six-point, fourth-quarter deficit into a win.
Thanks to Antetokounmpo.
In addition to his 16 points in the final quarter, he also had two steals, two (of his 13) rebounds and two assists in the final 12 minutes as the Bucks used a 17-4 run to take control.
“You saw the way Giannis played tonight,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “I mean, you watched him in the preseason games, you thought, ‘That’s an MVP candidate, for sure.’”
Stevens, who revealed Tuesday that Hayward dislocated his left ankle and broke his tibia, said after the game, “The last I heard that he was — when I left to take the court — that he was heading into surgery.”
Hayward’s father, Gordon, tweeted Wednesday night: “In surgery now... Prayers for my son please! Surgeon said 2-3 hours...whatever it takes. #Godsgotthis!”
Stevens said he visited Hayward in the hospital earlier Wednesday and said Hayward was down.
The forward addressed the crowd pregame from his hospital bed, saying, “I’m gonna be all right.”
With 3:21 left in the first half, the crowd broke into a chant of “Gor-don Hay-ward.”
Malcolm Brogdon added 19 points and Khris Middleton and Matthew Dellavedova 15 apiece for the Bucks.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 18 points. Kyrie Irving, playing for the first time in front of his new home crowd, had 17 points but shot just 7-for-25 from the floor. Terry Rozier added 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Asked about the shooting percentage, Irving, who seemed to be pressing, said, “Got to get ‘em up. Got to get the shots up, man. It’s the first back-to-back of the season. You don’t want to put too much (weight) on a shooting night like that.
“They’re coming off their first night of the season and we’re coming off a great challenge for us, which was last night. Understanding the circumstances that went in, just playing a lot of different guys, it’s not going to look perfect.”
He added: “We understand the challenge is to get better and progress and raise our expectations in one another. Guys are going to need to step up and understand what defenses are going to need to do every night. I’ve got to continue to be aggressive for us to be successful — poor shooting night or not.”
Said Brown, who fouled out late, “We’re going to win a lot of games here in Boston. Once we get things figured out and let Kyrie be Kyrie, it’s going to be fine.”
NOTES: Boston rookie F Jayson Tatum, the third pick in the NBA draft, had eight points and nine rebounds. He is averaging 11 points and 9.5 rebounds through two games. ... Cavaliers G Isaiah Thomas, who helped recruit F Gordon Hayward to Boston before he was dealt to Cleveland, visited the injured Hayward in the locker room Tuesday. “He was back there with Gordon when he was getting his splint,” Stevens said. “He plays for another team, but he’s a special guy to us.” ... The Bucks were watching the game in their Boston hotel when Hayward went down. “Just shock,” G Malcolm Brogdon said. “People just turned their heads from the TV. As a basketball player, you don’t want to see people even turn their ankles. You just turn your head and you pray for him and wish him the best.”