Bucks 123, Celtics 116: Last word

BOSTON | The Milwaukee Bucks took back homecourt with a 123-116 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 Friday night.

Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

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What more can you say about the Greek Freak? His Game 1 performance feels like a distant memory. Giannis nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 32 points (8-13 FG, 16-22 FT), 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Aggressive from the start, Giannis lived at the free throw line attacking constantly throughout the night.

Celtics’ star Kyrie Irving was more than frustrated with the calls Giannis was getting. “Guy comes down almost six times in a row and gets free throws,” Irving said. “What are you really going to do? It’s slowing the game down. The run that you would hope to make in a quarter like that doesn’t happen. I mean, he shot 22 on the game. It’s getting ridiculous at this point. It’s just slowing the (expletive) game down.”

Giannis said that he’s going to keep being aggressive and get to the free throw line. Free throws are one thing he does need to improve on. He’s is just 34-50 (68%) from the foul line in this series.

Play of the game: Ersan did what?

Did you see that amazing block in the Bucks game last night? Yes, Giannis stuffed Irving at the rim. No, I’m talking about the “Turkish Hammer,” Ersan Ilyasova. A good defender, but not known for his shot-blocking, Ilyasova made Gordon Hayward think twice about driving to the rim against him again.

The good: The backup guards

George Hill and Pat Connaughton played big roles in Game 3. Coming off the bench, they sparked the Bucks and kept them afloat. Connaughton got going early with eight points on 3-3 shooting in the first quarter. He followed it up with three more points in the second finishing with 14 for the game. Add in a block, an offensive rebound and loads of energy, Connaughton did everything to help Milwaukee take a 2-1 series lead.

“Me and George Hill always talk about bench mob,” Connaughton said. “We’ve got to make sure we bring the energy every single night.”

It was said the Bucks would get good salary cap relief when they traded for Hill earlier in the season. Hill was out to show he was way more than that. He was the second-leading scorer for Milwaukee behind Giannis with 21 points (9-12 FG, 2-3 3PT). In a game where Eric Bledsoe couldn’t find any rhythm, Hill did more than enough to pick up the slack.

“It’s a recurring theme for, I guess, as long as I’ve known George; the more aggressive he is, the better he is,” Budenholzer said. That must be the mentality for everyone on this team. You don’t win playoff games by being passive. Hill and Connaughton were aggressive Friday night and were big reasons why the Bucks got the win.

The not so good: Free throws

The Bucks did a lot of things well but their performance at the free throw line was unacceptable. They did a great job getting to charity stripe but didn’t knock enough down. Milwaukee finished the night 24-36 (66.7%) from the foul line. Giannis had six of the team’s 12 misses. Bledsoe was also 0-4. All that matters is they got the win, but had it been a closer game we may have looked back at the free throw woes being the issue they lose.

The weird: Brown flushes on Giannis, again

Jaylen Brown continues to get the best of Giannis. He put him on a poster in Game 1. Brown converted on a beautiful spin and no-look shot against Giannis in Game 2. Again, in Game 3 he threw one down on the MVP candidate.

Stat of the game: 40

Just like Game 2, it was the third quarter that was the difference for the Bucks. They outscored Boston 40-31 in the third frame. The Bucks outscored the Celtics 51-34 in the first 16 minutes of the second half for a 106-90 lead. Milwaukee never gave the lead back.

“I just think ultimately they made a lot of plays in that quarter and we didn’t,” Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens said.

What they said:

Budenholzer on the win…

I think the defense and the togetherness as we worked our way through the game and again the third quarter stood out to me that we could get stops and we could get out and go. Guys coming off the bench like George Hill and Pat Connaughton, just fabulous tonight. The spirit of the group is in a good place and now the challenge is to keep it there and get ready for a couple days from now.

Khris Middleton on if they had something to prove against Boston this year…

I don’t think this year we came here to prove a point. It’s different seasons, different teams. We’ve been playing well on the road all year long. We’re not worried about who we’re playing against, really. It’s about us. We forgot about last year. We moved on from it.

In case you missed it:

*Giannis is the first Buck since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974 with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in an NBA Playoffs game.

*The win was Milwaukee’s first playoff win in Boston since May 13, 1987.

*The last time the Bucks won three playoff games in a row on the road was back in 1982 in Philadelphia, then a year later in 1983 getting two in Boston.

*Milwaukee tallied 123 points, matching its scoring output from Game 2 (90 points in Game 1). This is the first time this postseason that the Celtics have allowed 100+ points in consecutive games.

*The Bucks’ bench unit outscored Boston’s bench, 42-16.

*Milwaukee outscored Boston, 68-60, in the second half on 53.8% shooting. The Bucks shot 8-of-16 from beyond the arc over the final two quarters, after shooting 7-of-21 from three in the first half.

What’s next?

The Bucks (2-1) get set for Game 4 against the Celtics (1-2) in Boston on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00pm.

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