BOSTON — In the fog of the Celtics’ Game 5 loss to Milwaukee, his team was stuck in a 3-2 series hole, Boston coach Ime Udoka made a prediction.
“It gets sweeter when we bounce back,” he said.
After two wins, the Celtics turned their coach’s predictions into reality.
Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points and hit seven 3-pointers, Jayson Tatum added 23, Boston set a Game 7 record with 22 3-pointers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Eliminated the NBA champion Bucks 109-81.
The Celtics will face top-seeded Miami in a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals starting Tuesday. In that series at Walt Disney World, the Heat beat the Celtics in six games.
Tatum said his team had to win the last two games after a loss in their last home game, and they embraced the “against the wall” moment.
“As painful as it is to lose Game 5, I’m looking forward to that challenge,” Tatum said. “I believe in myself, I believe in this team. I want to play my way and have us respond our way.”
The Celtics trailed early in Game 7, but beat the Bucks 61-38 in the second half. Boston took advantage of a 54-point advantage from beyond the arc in a decisive Game 7 to make it 25-9.
The Bucks are now 3-9. They shot 4-for-33 (12.1 percent) from the three-point line. That’s the second-worst three-point percentage in playoff history (at least 30 attempts).
Williams was timid early on, missing five of his first seven 3-point attempts. He got pep talk from Jaylen Brown during a timeout after Williams threw an open shot that changed his mindset.
“For me, like they were encouraging it, I might as well take advantage of it,” Williams said. “Everyone became more comfortable over time.”
Williams shot 7 of 18 from beyond the arc. The Celtics shot 22 of 55.
It helped Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo endure another relentless night with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. But he made 3 of 11 shots in the second half, including 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
“I usually don’t make shots. That’s basketball. That’s sports,” Antetokounmpo said. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. There’s a winner. There’s a loser. You just have to live with it.”
Jrue Holiday had 21 points and eight assists. Brook Lopez had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston started the second half with an 11-4 run to lead 59-47.
When Tatum sat on the bench after being whistled for his fourth foul, it was 63-53. But the Celtics bounced back without him, beating the Bucks 16-11 the rest of the quarter to take a 79-64 lead into the fourth.
Udoka said he was able to maintain a narrow vision for most of his first season as head coach, but said he allowed himself to take in the roar of the TD Garden crowd in the final seconds.
He said it was important to be able to play Game 7 at home. The Celtics won the game on the final day of the regular season when the Bucks rested their regulars and were beaten 133-115 by Cleveland.
“That’s what we played for and why we’re out this season to have home-court advantage in Game 7,” Udoka said. “Those things matter if you believe in the basketball gods.”
Brown said their coach has been the catalyst for getting them in this position.
“We didn’t want it to end. We didn’t get over everything we did in the regular season. . . At the end of the day, we figured it out and put it all out there. I think we did.”
Bucks: Pregame moments of silence for victims of mass shootings were held in Milwaukee and Buffalo last week. … F Khris Middleton missed his 10th straight playoff game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. … Milwaukee missed its final 11 3-point attempts in the first half.
Celtics: 9-of-22 from the 3-point line in the first half. … Patriots owner Robert Kraft sat courtside with Patriots quarterback Mike Jones and receiver Kendrick Burn.
Celtics center Robert Williams III is available after missing three straight games with left knee soreness and a bone contusion. But he didn’t play.
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