Antetokounmpo scores 42, Tatum struggles, Bucks hang on to beat Celtics in wild Game 3
What. A. Series.
What. An. Ending.
Boston had battled from 14 down to take the lead and held it into the final minute on Saturday, but when the Bucks needed it, they got big buckets from Giannis Antetokounmpo and then Jrue Holiday.
With the Celtics down 3, Marcus Smart thought he drew a three-shot foul as he went up from just beyond the arc, but the officials ruled it a rip-through move on the ground, a two-shot foul. Boston was rightfully incensed — is Smart going to do a sweeping motion down 3 with time running out? — and after the game, Celtics’ coach Ime Udoka said, “It was a foul... Bad missed call.” However, the officials were not about to change their ruling and the Celtics could not challenge.
Smart made the first free throw, intentionally missed the second and the Celtics had multiple chances to send the game to overtime, but missed them all — except for Al Horford’s shot that came after the buzzer.
The Bucks hang on for the Game 3 win and now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Monday in Milwaukee.
There are a lot of storylines out of this game, but the core reason Milwaukee now leads this series is Antetokounmpo scored 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting, while Jayson Tatum had 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting — the Bucks star was the best player on the court. Antetokounmpo bounced back from a couple of rough games in Boston to look like an MVP, while another Buck, Welsley Matthews, deserves some credit for Tatum’s struggles. Both Tatum and Udoka said postgame that he is overthinking things now, not just playing with flow.
Holiday, who finished with 25 points, might have been the second-best. Jaylen Brown scored 27 to lead the Celtics and Al Horford had another strong game scoring 22.
Boston also struggled from 3, hitting 9-of-33 (27.3 %) beyond the arc.
This has been a defensive series and that continued in Game 3 — midway through the second quarter both teams had an offensive rating below 90 (far less than a point per possession). It didn’t get a lot better the rest of the way, with the winning Bucks finishing with a 101 rating (14.8 points below their season average).
Boston needs more out of Tatum in Game 4, but whatever happens, expect another close, physical, intense game. These are two very even teams playing at a very high level. This is the best of the NBA.
What. A. Series.