Al Horford was a split-second too late on a tip-in that would have sent the game to overtime as the Milwaukee Bucks took advantage of some home cooking and escaped with a 103-101 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of their second round playoff series on Saturday afternoon.
Horford’s bid came after Marcus Smart intentionally bricked a free throw in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Replays showed Smart had been fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer, but officials awarded him just two shots.
A victory in the rough-and-tumble affair gave the Bucks a 2-1 series lead.
The home team nearly fumbled things away, losing composure in the fourth while Al Horford (22 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and two blocks for the game) keyed a Boston barrage. The Celtics took care of the basketball, clamped down defensively, and even briefly took the lead on a Jaylen Brown free throw with 1:49 remaining. But Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday got to the basket on consecutive possessions to put the Celtics down three, leading to the Smart three-point attempt.
Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee with 42 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks.
The Bucks outscored Boston 34-17 in the third, quickly flipping the Celtics’ halftime advantage by converting points off turnovers. Antetokounmpo personally outscored the entire Boston roster for much of the third as the Milwaukee lead hit a game-high 14 late in the quarter. Jayson Tatum (4-for-19 for the game) and the Celtics struggled mightily from the floor, shooting 6-for-20 as a unit in the period, with seven turnovers and seven fouls.
Jrue Holiday logged 25 points and three steals for the winners, while Brook Lopez double-doubled with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jaylen Brown paced Boston with 27 points – adding 12 boards – and Derrick White tallied 14 off the bench.
It was an ugly first half from an aesthetic standpoint, with the clubs combining to shoot 36 percent from the field and 7-for-36 (19 percent) from downtown. Some rugged play featured Antetokounpo plowing over multiple Boston defenders, a hard foul by the Greek Freak on a Tatum transition slam (resulting in a three-point play for Boston) and a missed goaltending call on the former MVP. Despite this, a wide-open Grant Williams triple gave Boston a 50-46 lead at the half.
Milwaukee led by a 22-19 margin after one, with Tatum limited to a quiet two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Smart returned to the floor after missing Game 2, posting nine points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Game 3 is Monday night in Milwaukee. Pregame coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.