By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Giannis Antetokounmpo did not come down from his MVP level in Game 2, dominating whenever on the floor in the Bucks’ 123-116 win over the Celtics in Game 3 on Friday at TD Garden. For the third straight game, a third-quarter run ultimately decided the outcome of this one. But Antetkounmpo was a menace from wire to wire, finishing with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists as top-seeded Milwaukee took a 2-1 series lead.
The game went back-and-forth with numerous lead changes for the first 33 minutes and change. But a sudden late-third-quarter 12-0 run propelled the Bucks to victory, which they bolstered with a strong, consistent fourth quarter.
Boston, meanwhile, went up 82-81 in the third then shot 4-for-19 as a team for the rest of the game. Sound ball movement and efficient shooting in the first half crumbled into disarray late in the third and they never regained their footing. Jayson Tatum at one point lost his cool and drew a technical after committing a foul as he and Jaylen Brown both got into foul trouble.
Kyrie Irving (29 points) fizzled in the fourth quarter after a strong start to the game in a high-scoring but inefficient night (8-for-22 FG) for the Celtics superstar guard. The Celtics fell behind by as much as 15, but managed to keep it relatively close in the final stretches. Still, they simply won’t be able to beat the Bucks shooting as poorly as they did in the second half.
Here are some final observations from a big win for the Bucks, who wrested home court advantage back from the Celtics.
— Bucks’ sudden explosion decides game. George Hill caught fire in the third quarter with 11 of his 21 points, while Middleton finally came alive after a slow start with 9 of his 20. Milwaukee exploded for a 12-0 run in a 2:58 span, as Middleton and Hill combined for three straight three-pointers while the Celtics went 0-for-4 from the field. Milwaukee never looked back from there.
— Giannis has his way. Antetokounmpo faced a lot of one-on-one matchups, and there’s no one on the Celtics besides Al Horford and perhaps Semi Ojeleye who can hang with him defensively in that situation. He routinely burst toward the basket with a variety of moves, and sometimes pure power. It helped his cause that the C’s had to account for his teammates while they were hot.
— Celtics offense dries up late. Irving, Brown, and Tatum looked like Friday night’s Big Three for about two and a half quarters, but the trio (and the team) lost its way once the Bucks heated up. Irving, Brown, and Tatum combined for just 10 points in the fourth quarter, which won’t be nearly enough to outlast the Bucks when they shoot as well as they did in the second half. An 8-0 run to bring it within seven with 1:20 left was too little, too late.
— Milwaukee bench dominates Boston’s reserves. In addition to Hill’s big night off the bench, Pat Connaughton started strong with an 11-point first half and finished with 14. In all, the Bucks’ bench players outscored the Celtics’ 42-16. Way too big of a margin to survive. Hayward needs to do better than 2-for-8 from the floor, while Terry Rozier went 0-for-3 and had some crucial late misses.
Game 4 is next Monday, May 6 at 7 p.m. in Boston.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.