SAN FRANCISCO – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 42 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passed off eight assists to spark defending champion Milwaukee over Boston 103-101 on Saturday in the NBA playoffs.
The Greek superstar center also had two blocked shots and two steals for the Bucks, who seized a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference second round series, which continues at Milwaukee on Monday.
Golden State will host Memphis later Saturday in a Western Conference matchup, with that series level at 1-1.
The Celtics rallied from 14 points down to pull within 103-100 with 4.6 seconds remaining and Boston’s Marcus Smart sank the first of two free throws to lift the visitors within the final margin.
Smart missed the second free throw with hopes of grabbing a rebound and sink a tying inside shot, but Robert Williams missed a tip-in try and Al Horford’s tip-in was ruled after the final buzzer, giving Milwaukee the victory.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the foul by Jrue Holiday on Smart, ruled before a shot attempt, should have been seen as coming in the act of shooting and brought three free throws, which would have given Smart a chance to tie the game at the line.
“He was going into the shot,” Udoka said. “Poor no-call. It’s a shot. He’s curling into a shot. Bad missed call.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said the Bucks were “fortunate it was two free throws but we were not trying to foul him” on the Smart play.
Udoka also said it should not have come down to that.
“We were sloppy in the third execution wise and allowed them to get that lead then battled back in the fourth,” he said. “But we can play a lot better.”
Holiday had 25 points for the Bucks while Brook Lopez added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Pat Connaughton had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with 27 points and had 12 rebounds while Horford had 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Celtics but Jayson tatum went 4-of-19 from the floor and scored only 10 points.
Boston led 50-46 at half-time but the Bucks opened the third quarter with a 20-6 run to grab a 66-56 lead, with Antetokounmpo producing nine points and four assists in the pivotal span.
Milwaukee led by as much as 80-66 in the final seconds of the third quarter.
But Horford scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer and hook shot on back-to-back possessions to pull Boston within 97-95 with 4:10 to play.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Smart, who missed game two with a thigh injury, hit a free throw that lifted the Celtics within 97-96, but Antetokounmpo made a jumper in response.
Brown sank two free throws to lift Boston back within 99-98 with 2:33 remaining then went back to the line and hit two more to give the Celtics a 100-99 edge with 1:49 to play.
Antetokounmpo answered with an inside jumper to put the Bucks ahead 101-100 and then blocked a Brown shot.
Holiday grabbed the loose ball for Milwaukee and hit a one-handed shot to boost the Bucks ahead 103-100 with 11.2 seconds remaining, then fouled Smart to set up the final drama.
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