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Rapid Recap: Bucks 113, Celtics 117

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

In yet another matchup of Eastern Conference contenders (it’s still weird to type that, but here we are), the Milwaukee Bucks came up short against the Boston Celtics on national television, 117-113.

The first half was a tough, grind-it-out battle for both teams. Milwaukee was not finding open looks and was ice-cold from deep (only 3/14 for the half), and the Boston talent was able to keep pace far better than they usually do. The second half started with a barrage of threes from Boston, and Milwaukee scratched and clawed their way back, making it a two-point game with less than 15 seconds to go. Eric Bledsoe came up with a big steal and drew a foul with 12.8 left in regulation, but split a pair from the line to make it a 113-112 Boston lead.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was cleared from the league’s concussion protocol after missing the Monday game against the Toronto Raptors, worked his way to 33 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Giannis got some special attention from the TNT halftime show, where Kenny Smith went through how the Bucks use him like a point guard who just happens to have the size of a modern center. And Giannis, of course, is capable of feats like this:

Elsewhere for the Bucks, Khris Middleton struggled for most of the game until coming alive in the fourth quarter, and ended up with 16 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Eric Bledsoe recorded 13 points and 7 assists (but was -11 on the night), Malcolm Brogdon has 16 points and 6 rebounds, while rookie sensation Donte DiVincenzo was a Bucks-high +16 on the evening while logging 8 points, 5 boards, and 2 assists.

For the Celtics, Kyrie Irving led the way with 28 points (6/12 from three) and 7 assists, including 15 straight points on threes between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third. Gordon Hayward has 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards, while Al Horford did work with 18 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Marcus Morris added 17 points (including 5/8 from deep) and 5 rebounds off the bench.

Stat That Stood Out

Milwaukee got stuck on the wrong end of the math problem, and Boston set a new franchise record for threes by the third quarter. The Bucks were outshot on threes by TWENTY-EIGHT (27 Milwaukee attempts vs. 55 for Boston), and they were lapped by the end of the first half (14 attempts to Boston’s 28).

This in turn highlighted off a structural weakness on defense; when Brook Lopez drops into the paint on a pick-and-roll, his man (in this case, Al Horford) is wide open to pop the shot at the line. And as the game wore on, the Bucks’ point guards (who have been uniformly going over screens) are unable to catch up to the Celtics’ quicker guards, who willingly took pull-up threes, or found themselves open for an assist from Big Al. There is no easy answer to this question, and Mike Budenholzer and his staff will need to ponder it between now and their next showdown against Boston.