The Bucks Survived An Ugly Game 3 To Go Up In Their Series Against The Celtics

It wasn’t pretty, but the Milwaukee Bucks have a 2-1 series lead on the Boston Celtics. Despite leading by as many as 14 points, the Bucks needed to hold on until the very end to pick up a 103-101 win in their first home game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

As he’s done so many times over the years, Giannis Antetokounmpo came out and set the tone for Milwaukee during the first half of play. Whether he was using his length and athleticism to pester the Celtic offense or using his strength and physicality to attack the rim on the other end of the floor, the reigning NBA Finals MVP had 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting with nine rebounds in the first half.

Boston’s defense, however, was able to contain everyone else. The Celtics shot 15-for-45 (31.8 percent) from the field and 4-for-18 (17.6 percent) from three, but managed to hold their opponents other than Antetokounmpo to just over 29 percent shooting from the field. Beyond a strong half by Brook Lopez (11 points, seven rebounds) and nine points on 4-for-12 shooting for Jrue Holiday, the rest of the Bucks only scored six points.

As for Boston, five players scored at least seven points β€” Jaylen Brown’s 10 led the way, while Jayson Tatum only had six on 2-for-10 shooting β€” and as a result, the Celtics took a 50-46 lead into the road locker room thanks in part to a 7-0 run to end the half.

The start of the third quarter continued the trend of chippy play, with the difference being that one side had Giannis Antetokounmpo. The sheer physicality that he brought to the floor helped Milwaukee open the half on a 20-6 run to wrest the lead away and find themselves up by double-digits. The Bucks’ 10-point lead as a result of the stretch was the largest deficit Boston faced all postseason up to that point.

The biggest moment of the quarter, though, came with 3:26 remaining, when Mike Budenholzer opted to rest Antetokounmpo for the remainder of the period. Instead of the Celtics being able to cut into the 10-point deficit at that time, Milwaukee actually managed to extend its lead to 13, putting themselves up 80-67 entering the fourth.

Boston came out for the start of the final frame in a precarious place, as Antetokounmpo returned to the game and the crowd at Fiserv Forum was ready to watch the home team pull away. That didn’t happen, as the Celtics stayed in it and eventually went on a 9-2 run to cut things to five.

Boston kept chipping away over the course of the fourth, getting it down to one point on multiple occasions. But each time, they couldn’t quite get over the hump … until Brown went up for a layup with 1:49 left, got fouled by Holiday, and knocked down a pair of free throws to go up, 100-99.

After back-to-back possessions where neither team scored, Milwaukee came down the floor, got the ball to Antetokounmpo, and let him go to work for a go-ahead basket. A layup attempt by Brown through contact was no good, and on the ensuing Bucks possession, the dagger came when Holiday composed himself after a collision with Tatum and made a runner.

The door was opened for the Celtics when Marcus Smart got fouled with 4.6 seconds left. After making the first, Smart purposely missed the second and all hell broke loose. The league’s Defensive Player of the Year got the rebound, threw up an off-balance attempt, and while it did not go in, Robert Williams got a chance for a putback. That didn’t go in, either, but Al Horford got a chance, and while he made his tip-in, it was determined this came after the buzzer.

Antetokounmpo had a monster night, going for 42 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, and two steals, while Holiday gave them 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Lopez registered a double-double, going for 13 points and 10 boards. Brown’s 27 points and 12 rebounds led the way for Boston, with Horford pitching in 22 points, 16 rebounds, five dimes, and two blocks. Tatum had a game to forget, scoring 10 points on 4-for-19 shooting.

Game 4 between the Bucks and Celtics will take place on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT.