MILWAUKEE — The starters for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics spent the conclusions of Games 1 and 2 on their respective benches, with the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series ending before the final buzzer sounded in blowout victories for each team.
Saturday’s Game 3 matinee at Fiserv Forum provided the first wire-to-wire contest of the best-of-seven series as the Bucks edged the Celtics 103-101 at the buzzer to take a 2-1 lead and protect the home-court advantage they earned in Boston.
Celtics center Al Horford’s would-be game-tying tip-in was initially ruled good on the court, but review showed it fell in after time expired.
Boston came back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to take a 100-99 lead with just under two minutes to go in regulation on two free throws from Jaylen Brown, but Giannis Antetokounmpo had a go-ahead lay-in with 44.3 seconds left. Jrue Holiday then hit the eventual game-winner with 11.2 seconds left to give the Bucks a 103-100 lead.
Holiday fouled Marcus Smart with 4.6 seconds left to set up a pair of bonus free throws. Smart made the first to set up an intentional miss on the second, and he did it perfectly as Robert Williams III had a good look on the put back. He missed, however, and the game ended.
Antetokounmpo, who shot just 38.5% from the floor (20-for-52) over the first two games for 52 points went 16-for-30 on Saturday for 42 points to lead all scorers. He also had 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. Jrue Holiday added 25 points on 11-of-30 shooting and seven rebounds.
Grayson Allen started in place of Bobby Portis, but he was plagued with foul trouble and did not score and attempted just three shots. Brook Lopez had 13 points and 10 rebounds but also had foul trouble and missed large chunks of action. Pat Connaughton scored 11 points off the Bucks’ bench while Portis had nine.
Brown led Boston with 27 points while Horford added 22, with 12 coming in the fourth quarter to fuel the Celtics’ rally.
They scored 18 points in the opening 4½ minutes of the fourth quarter — one more point than they scored the entire third quarter.
Jayson Tatum was held to 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting. Williams (10 points) and Derrick White (14) also reached double figures for the Celtics.
Smart, who missed Game 2 with a right thigh bruise, returned for Boston and scored nine points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Milwaukee worked in veteran point guard George Hill for nearly 11 minutes off the bench after the 36-year-old had missed the regular-season finale and the first seven games of the postseason with an abdominal strain suffered on April 8. Though he didn’t score, he did draw two key offensive fouls and provided some relief as the Bucks’ perimeter players had foul trouble.
Follow Jim Owczarski on Twitter @JimOwczarski.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks edge Celtics in Game 3 to take 2-1 series lead