BOSTON (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo kept attacking and the Boston Celtics kept fouling.
The fouls may have slowed the second half of Game 3, but nothing could stop Antetokounmpo from putting together a signature performance in TD Garden.
Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds, George Hill finished with 21 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Boston 123-116 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Khris Middleton added 20 points.
Antetokounmpo had only 13 field goal attempts but had 16 points from the free throw line in a game that featured 53 total fouls called — 39 in the second half. Including Milwaukee’s two regular-season games in Boston, Antetokounmpo has scored 30 or more points in each of his trips to TD Garden in 2018-19.
“I’m just gonna keep being aggressive. That’s what my teammates want me to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “If I have to take it all the way, I’ll take it all the way.”
Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and Jayson Tatum had 20 for the Celtics, who host Game 4 on Monday.
Boston led by a point at the half but was outscored 40-31 in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 17 points in the final period.
The Celtics were also outscored 52-24 in the paint and had 18 turnovers leading to 28 Milwaukee points.
Irving acknowledged the fouls did slow down the game and stunt Boston’s efforts late.
“It’s getting ridiculous at this point,” Irving said, using an expletive to describe the lulls the fouls created.
The Bucks threw the Celtics a tactical curveball in Game 2, inserting Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup in place of Sterling Brown.
In Game 3 it was Celtics coach Brad Stevens who brought new wrinkles, notably going with a small lineup that featured 6-foot-7 Semi Ojeleye guarding the 6-11 Antetokounmpo when he returned to the game at the start of the second quarter and again in the third quarter.
Boston also kept going at Antetokounmpo throughout the game when it had the ball. It included a one-handed dunk by Jaylen Brown over the Bucks’ star early in the third quarter that brought the Celtics fans inside TD Garden to their feet. It was reminiscent of a two-handed dunk he had over Antetokounmpo in Boston’s Game 1 win.
Friday’s version complemented several nice defensive plays by Brown, including blocking a Tony Snell layup attempt off the backboard.
Still, Milwaukee managed to keep racking up points in the paint. The Bucks led by as many as 12 in the third quarter and took a 95-87 lead into the fourth.
That was the score when Brown was called for his fifth foul with 10:53 left on what appeared to be a light touch of Eric Bledsoe near the baseline. It brought animated protests from both Brown and Stevens. A few trips later, Tatum received a technical for protesting his foul of Antetokounmpo.
Stevens said he didn’t think his team was overly frustrated by the foul calls.
“I just think ultimately they made a lot of plays in that quarter and we didn’t,” he said.
The Bucks started to rack up points at the line and their lead grew to 114-97 by the time Brown came back into the game with 4:53 remaining.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo is hard to stop when he’s this locked in to finding ways to score and get his teammates involved.
“He’s just such a force. He can get through cracks,” Budenholzer said. “He’s going to finish or get to the free throw line a lot if he keeps playing like this.”
Bucks: Finished 15 of 37 from the 3-point line.
Celtics: Finished 30 of 32 from the free throw line
The Celtics players wore black warmup T-shirts adorned with a green No. 17 to honor Hall of Famer John Havlicek, who died last week at age 79 after a short battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The team also observed a moment of silence for him prior to tipoff. Later after the game’s first timeout, a highlight video was shown on the jumbotron. It ended with a spotlight being shined on his retired No. 17 banner hanging in the rafters.
Voted one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, Havlicek won eight titles with Boston and his steal of Hal Greer’s inbounds pass helped the Celtics hold off Philadelphia in the 1965 Eastern Conference final.
The Bucks’ bench outscored Boston’s 42-16, with Hill and Pat Connaughton (14) leading the way.
Connaughton, who grew up as a Celtics fan in nearby Arlington, had a large rooting section of friends and family in the crowd. But he said there was no special meaning to helping Milwaukee beat his hometown team in a playoff game.
“Hopefully, in a few more weeks, I’ll be able to look back and say it was pretty cool, growing up six miles away, winning a game at the TD Garden,” said Connaughton, who also had seven rebounds and two steals.
Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.
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