The Celtics let another third quarter run by the Bucks seal their fate, as they fell 123-116 in Game 3 at TD Garden on Friday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 32 points on 8-of-13 shooting, to go along with 13 rebounds and 8 assists, as Milwaukee takes a commanding 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinals best-of-seven series.
George Hill added 21 points, hitting 9-of-12 from the field in 29 minutes off the bench, while Khris Middleton finally got his offense going in the fourth quarter; scoring 20 points for the Bucks.
Antetokounmpo went 16-of-22 -- tying a career-high in attempts -- from the free throw line, as the Celtics tried to slow the All-Star down with the much smaller Semi Ojeleye guarding him in the second half. But coach Brad Stevens' efforts only resulted in more fouls.
"He's just such a force. He can get through cracks," Mike Budenholzer said. "He's going to finish or get to the free throw line a lot if he keeps playing like this."Kyrie Irving, who finished with 29 points on 22 shots attempts and made 11-of-12 free-throws, spoke about the officiating that he believed hurt the rhythm of the game.
"I mean it's getting ridiculous at this point. It's just slowing the f***king game down."Jayson Tatum snapped out of his offensive funk to start the series, recording a double-double of 20 points, 11 rebounds, as he and Jaylen Brown -- 18 points, 5 rebounds -- stayed aggressive. Each had a couple of monster dunks including Brown, who once again towered over Antetokounmpo for his second highlight against "The Greek Freak" this week.
Al Horford chipped in 17 points and Marcus Morris netted 16, as they both grabbed eight rebounds a piece in Boston's second straight loss.
On a night when NBA Hall-of-Famer and Celtics legend the late John Havlicek was honored, the home crowd was electric throughout most of the evening despite a Bucks 12-0 run in a span of a minute and 42 seconds in the second half, which turned out to be the deciding factor.
Boston led 56-55 at the start of a back and forth third quarter, while the Bucks supporting cast of Hill, Pat Connaughton (14 points) and Nikola Mirotic (13 points) continued to pour it on from 3, along with Antetokounmpo getting to the free-throw line to pull ahead for good -- capping off a 40-31 -- period.
The Bucks owned a 93-82 lead following their run and used scrambling defense to combat a late Celtics rally in the final frame to pick up the victory.
"That's what they do, said Gordon Hayward of the Bucks defense in the paint. "They really suck in when people drive and meet you at the rim. Sometimes, it's two, three, four guys are around. They are doing a good job of flying out afterward and trying to scramble. That's where we just have to take advantage of that. We drive in, kick out. If the shot's not there, the second drive, the third drive, it's going to be there. If you get into the paint like that, you are going to have those opportunities."The Celtics, who trailed by as many as 17, were outscored in the paint 52-24 and turned the ball over 18 times that lead to 28 Milwaukee points.
"I just think ultimately they made a lot of plays in that quarter, and we didn't," said Brad Stevens of the Bucks' 12-0 run in the third quarter.Boston will have an extra day to rest and re-group when they look to even the series 2-2 on Monday night at the Garden.
Aside from losing the field goal percentage battle (50.6-43.2), the Celtics' bench was also outscored by Milwaukee's 42-16, while both teams shot 40 percent from behind the arc. Boston hit 93 percent of their free throws (30-32) and the Bucks went 66.7 percent from the line, shooting 24-of-36.
Picture used courtesy of Getty Images
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