The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks found themselves with a 2-1 series lead over the Boston Celtics with a 103-101 on Saturday night. They were led by the reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dominant performance.
They doubled up Boston in the 3rd quarter(34-17) and they took the biggest lead by either team this series(14 points) late in the 3rd quarter. It was Milwaukee’s first 30-pt quarter in this series.
They needed a strong finish as the Celtics took their first lead 100-99, since early in the 3rd quarter (52-51). With the Celtics down 103-100 with 4.6 remaining in the game Celtics had a choice to make with guard Marcus Smart shooting two free throws, either make both and foul again and hope the Bucks miss a FT on their end or make one and miss the other with a chance at an offensive rebound.
Head coach Ime Udoka elected to have Smart miss the second, and his team couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. They got 3 different opportunities to tie the game after the offensive rebound by Smart, and a big man Al Horford tipped it in but it was too late as time had expired.
“Missed it perfectly,” Smart said. “Nobody was ready, (but) our guys were. Got it up on the rim. We had a few chances at it. Just didn’t work out for us.”
After a tough comeback by Boston, Giannis put his team on his back and wouldn’t let them go down 2-1 with his performance.
He finished with a 42-pt double-double.
He grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and had a game-high eight assist. He also made 9-12 from the free throw line. His pass midway through that 3rd quarter to his teammate Jrue Holiday, helped his team get that big lead (66-56) and also had Giannis dancing towards the crowd.
“I know what my strengths are” Antetokounmpo said. “Just try to read what’s in front of me and just play with my instincts. Sometimes I’m going to make the right play and sometimes I’m going to make the wrong play, but as long as I play within my strengths, we’re going to be in a good place.”
Between Him and Holiday, and without Khris Middleton (missed 6th straight game, sprained MCL) they combined to have 60 field goal attempts. Holiday had a solid 25 points and seven rebounds. Brook Lopez had a double-double himself with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis who came off the bench after starting games 1 & 2 combined for all 20 of the team’s bench points.
They dominated the paint outscoring Boston 52-32.
The Celtics were led again by Jaylen Brown again after he scored 30 points in Game 2, with his double-double of 27(10-11 FT) points and 12 rebounds.
“We just continued to be aggressive,” Brown said about his team fighting back after being down double-digits. “We had a lot of great looks tonight that didn’t go down, but we still had every opportunity to win this game in the 4th quarter.”
All-Star Jayson Tatum had his most difficult scoring output with only 10 points and just 4-19 from the field, and he missed all six of his 3-pt attempts while playing a team-high 41 minutes. “I was probably thinking a little bit too much,” Tatum said. “It all comes down to I’ve got to make better reads.”
Veteran Horford contributed big with a double-double with 22 points and 16 rebounds(game-high). Backup point guard Derrick White chipped in with 14 points off the bench after getting the start in Game 2 (while starter Smart sat out) and didn’t score.
“We talked about it coming into the series. Good offense and taking care of the ball is going to be paramount in this series,” coach Udoka said. “The third quarter got away from us.”
They doubled up Milwaukee from the free throw line 28-14.
Game 4: Monday in Milwaukee.
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