Bucks edge Celtics in Game 3 to take series lead 2-1
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics starters passed the conclusions of Games 1 and 2 on their respective benches, with the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series ending before the final buzzer resounds in resounding victories for each team.
Saturday morning of Game 3 at the Fiserv Forum provided the first wire-to-wire contest of the best-of-seven series as the Bucks edged the Celtics 103-101 at the buzzer to take a 2-1 lead and protect the advantage home court they won in Boston.
Celtics center Al Horford’s potential tip was initially ruled good on the field, but review showed it fell after the time limit expired.
Boston came back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to take a 100-99 lead with just under two minutes left in regulation on two free throws from Jaylen Brown, but Giannis Antetokounmpo got the go-ahead with 44.3 seconds. left. Jrue Holiday then hit the eventual game winner with 11.2 seconds left to give the Bucks a 103-100 lead.
Holiday fouled Marcus Smart with 4.6 seconds left to set up a pair of bonus free throws. Smart did the first to set up an intentional miss on the second, and he did it perfectly as he and Robert Williams III had chances on the return.
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The two, however, missed a scrum amid the bigs of Milwaukee Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis and the game ended after Horford’s last attempt was short-critical.
“I had pretty good eyesight and thought it was close, you know?” said Lopez. “I was right there and saw Al flip it over and then I saw the little red outline disappear on the sign, so it was very close. At that point, I don’t know in which direction it was.”
Holiday wondered how quickly Smart got off the free throw line to get the first throw-in attempt and got through the Celtics’ final attempts.
“It’s a long clock,” Holiday said. “Glad it worked our way.”
From his perspective on the court, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said “just both teams were giving up for a rebound and giving up for a win.”
Antetokounmpo, who shot just 38.5 percent from the floor (20 for 52) in the first two games for 52 points, went 16 for 30 on Saturday for 42 points to lead all scorers. He also had 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks.
“I just try to read what’s in front of me, play to my strengths as much as possible,” Antetokounmpo said of his mindset. “I know what my strengths are. But yeah, I just tried to read what’s in front of me. I just play with my instincts.
“Sometimes I’ll make the right play, sometimes I’ll make the wrong play, but as long as I play to my strengths, I’m going to be well placed.”
Jrue Holiday added 25 points on 11-of-30 shooting and seven rebounds.
Grayson Allen started in place of Bobby Portis, but was plagued with foul issues and failed to score and only attempted three shots. Brook Lopez had 13 points and 10 rebounds, but also had foul trouble and missed big chunks of action. Pat Connaughton scored 11 points off the Bucks bench while Portis had nine.
Brown led Boston with 27 points while Horford added 22, including 12 in the fourth quarter to fuel the Celtics’ rally.
They scored 18 points in the first 4½ minutes of the fourth quarter, one point more than they scored in the entire third quarter.
“It felt like we probably didn’t score on a few possessions,” Budenholzer said of Boston’s fourth-quarter comeback. “When it comes to the fourth quarter and you get a clean look, it would be nice to do a couple. Credit to Boston. They’ve done a couple – Horford at least one and Brown.
“And they got to the free-throw line. We have to keep them on the free-throw line. The difference in the free-throw game – they got 33 from 17 – we have to do a better job of keeping them out of the free throw line and Giannis must continue to be in attack mode, our team must be in attack mode.
“We need to reverse the free throw game. You’re lucky to win a game when a team shoots twice as many free throws as you do.”
Jayson Tatum was held to 10 points on 4-for-19 shooting. Williams (10 points) and Derrick White (14) also hit double digits for the Celtics.
Smart, who missed Game 2 with a right thigh bruise, returned for Boston and scored nine points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Milwaukee worked under veteran point guard George Hill for nearly 11 minutes off the bench after the 36-year-old missed the regular season finale and the first seven games of the playoffs with abdominal strain on April 8. t to score, he had two key offensive fouls fired and provided some relief as the Bucks perimeter players had foul issues.
In a foul-ridden first half, Boston took a 50-46 lead into the break with a 16-for-17 effort from the free-throw line while Milwaukee were 7-for-10. also scored 10 points on eight turnovers for the Bucks, while the defending champions managed just one point on four forced turnovers.
Follow Jim Owczarski on Twitter @JimOwczarski.