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The Boston Celtics had their biggest challenge of the week in Milwaukee, but it wasn’t playing against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks. Boston had zero problems with its new-found rival Thursday night in a 140-99 victory.

The biggest challenge came after that game. The Celtics were forced to change plans. They were supposed to leave Milwaukee immediately after the game because they were hosting the Utah Jazz the following night. A delayed flight left them in Wisconsin for an extra 12 hours, making for an antsy trip back to Boston. Celtics star Jayson Tatum was supposed to have the night off against Utah, but the abrupt change of plans had him on the court Friday after he and the Celtics accepted their latest “challenge.”

The Boston Celtics took care of business on the court but had their problems off it

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics tries to escape the double team of Simone Fontecchio #16 of the Utah Jazz and Kelly Olynyk during the second half at TD Garden on March 31, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Winslow Townson/Getty Images.

Thursday’s meeting with the Bucks featured the top two teams in the East vying for the No. 1 seed as the postseason approaches. The Celtics made quite a statement. Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Boston’s top two scorers, combined for 70 points as the Celtics dominated from the opening tap.

The challenge for Boston came after the final buzzer sounded.

“It was weird,” veteran Celtics guard Marcus Smart said, per Taylor Snow of “We waited to try to get a pilot. Then we didn’t get a pilot. Then they told us there were no rooms and then we had to wait and try to get a room. Nobody knew exactly what was going on.

“Then when we finally figured it out, it was already 2 in the morning. So we get back and by the time we went to sleep, the adrenaline is still going. Now you’re up because you’ve got to keep moving around and you’ve got to be alert.

“It was a little difficult to go to sleep for some people, but that’s just part of it. It was definitely tough, but this is one of those games where you come out and it doesn’t matter, and you’ve got to fight through it.”

According to Snow, the last time the Celtics had to travel on the same day as a game was on Jan. 3, 2014. That was before Smart was even in the league.

Tatum said the Celtics looked at the flight problem as another ‘challenge’

The Celtics have faced adversity in the last few weeks with their inconsistent play. For much of the season, they were the top seed in the conference, but their erratic play has them at No. 2 with four games remaining. An ugly home loss to the Washington Wizards and a loss to the lowly Houston Rockets headlined a month where the Celtics went 10-6.

As the playoffs approach, the Celtics have won five of their last six, that Wizards game being their only blemish. They have responded well to criticism and challenges. They looked at this Milwaukee postgame mess as another one.

Tatum, who was supposed to get the night off against the Jazz, played the game and put up 39 points in a 122-114 victory.

“Everything was kind of thrown off, but we looked at it as a challenge,” Tatum said. “I wasn’t even really supposed to play today, but we were talking on the plane like, we were all in this together.

“We just wanted to go through it with the guys, rock out and play, and figure it out. And it was fun. It was fun figuring it out regardless of how the last 24 hours were. It was rewarding.”


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