The Milwaukee Bucks used a run late in the third quarter to take the lead for good, then rode balanced scoring to keep the host Boston Celtics at arm’s length throughout the fourth period en route to a 123-116 victory Friday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Up 2-1 in the best-of-seven set, the top-seeded Bucks will seek a third consecutive win when the clubs meet again Monday night in Boston.
The Celtics scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points and led for most of the first half, going up by as many as 12 at one point.
However, the Bucks caught up on two free throws by Khris Middleton at the 4:25 mark of the third period and then took a lead they never relinquished at 81-79 when George Hill dropped in a layup on their next possession.
Hill (two) and Middleton (one) combined for three subsequent 3-pointers in what turned into a 16-3 burst that produced a 93-82 lead near period’s end.
The Celtics never threatened over the final 12 minutes, with Middleton and Pat Connaughton burying 3-pointers and Giannis Antetokounmpo contributing eight points to a fourth-quarter pull-away.
Only a generally meaningless 13-5 game-closing flurry by the Celtics made the final score deceptively close.
Coming off a 29-point performance in Game 2, Antetokounmpo was even better in Game 3, leading all scorers with 32 points. Half his scoring came on a 16-for-22 night at the free throw line.
Antetokounmpo completed a double-double with a game-high 13 rebounds, and he also contributed a game-high eight assists.
Hill (21 points) and Connaughton (14) combined for six 3-pointers and 35 points off the Milwaukee bench, while Middleton chipped in with 20 points and Nikola Mirotic 13 in the balanced attack.
The Bucks outshot the Celtics 50.6 percent to 43.2 percent.
All five Boston starters scored in double figures, led by Kyrie Irving with 29 points.
Jayson Tatum had 20 points, Jaylen Brown 18, Al Horford 17, Marcus Morris 16 and reserve Gordon Hayward 10 for the Celtics, who split games with the Bucks at home in the regular season.
Tatum grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
—Field Level Media