The Milwaukee Bucks dropped a nail-biter to the Boston Celtics, 122-121. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a chance to send the game into overtime on a pair of foul shots; the first went in but the second fell short, as did the Bucks.
This was the season-opener for each team, making it the start of a long and winding road for two Eastern Conference hopefuls. Milwaukee was at full strength (minus the absence of reserve guard DJ Augustin) while Boston was missing starting point guard Kamba Walker, who will miss significant time rehabbing a knee issue.
Both teams started off hot from the field; the Bucks and Celtics combined for 40 points in the first six minutes of action. Boston’s starting lineup presented a more physical challenge than expected with both Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson starting in the frontcourt, but Milwaukee was able to get out in transition and maintain the fast pace that generally favors them. Milwaukee was able to maintain a small lead for most of the first half, but an extended Boston run late in the second quarter gave them the 64-59 advantage as the game adjourned for halftime.
Milwaukee struggled to wrestle back control in the third quarter; Giannis Antetokounmpo committed two charges – of course, drawn by Marcus Smart – in the period and was thoroughly frustrated by the Celtics defense, in no small part because Giannis insisted on plowing ahead at every opportunity. Well, almost every opportunity.
Giannis with the HANDLE and STEPBACK. #KiaTipOff20 on TNT pic.twitter.com/pQhqIzIUTe— NBA (@NBA) December 24, 2020
Despite that, the Boston lead ballooned to 17 at the end of the third quarter; Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Jeff Teague(!) kept hitting big shots that the Bucks failed to answer...until the fourth quarter, when the lead was cut to ten points, then five, then two, until it was tied at 113-113 with 3:36 to go. Giannis very much was in takeover mode, and led Milwaukee to a 1-point lead with less than ten seconds remaining. Things looked good, until...
HAIL MARY FULL OF TATUM THE LORD IS WITH THEE pic.twitter.com/SguGAngtyS— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 24, 2020
Giannis managed to draw a foul on an inbound lob play with 0.4 seconds left, and after he made the first free throw he (once again) short-armed the second, sending the ball caroming off the rim, the clock ran down, and the Bucks left a chance to win in overtime on the floor. Heartbreaking way to drop your season opener, and Giannis certainly felt it.
Stat That Stood Out
Boston held a 10-shot lead over Milwaukee in terms of total field goal attempts (100-90) in large part of their +10 turnover differential (16 committed by the Bucks, only 6 by the Celtics). Holiday had 3 turnovers in his first game as a Buck, but Giannis committed 7 of his own, including four on charges. These mistakes fueled Boston’s offensive surge in the third quarter, and a lucky shot by Tatum is all they needed with the razor-thin margin of error the Bucks had created by virtue of their carelessness.
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