The Boston Celtics fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 123-116 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night, as they struggled in the second half for the second straight game.
The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, along with three blocks and two steals. Veteran guard George Hill scored 21 points on 9-12 shooting for the Bucks.
The Celtics led by as much as 12 in the first half and held a 56-55 lead at halftime, but were outscored 40-31 in the third quarter. The Bucks opened the lead to as much as 17 in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics often appeared frustrated with the officiating during second half, culminating in a technical foul call against Jayson Tatum with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter after he was called for a shooting foul on a swat of a Antetokounmpo drive to the basket. Antetokounmpo finished the game with 22 free throw attempts, and the Bucks had 36 free throw tries as a team.
The Bucks were in the bonus with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, largely thanks to the aggressive drives by Antetokounmpo. After the game, Kyrie Irving expressed his frustration with trying to play from behind under the circumstances.
"What are you really going to do? It's slowing the game down," Irving said. "So the run you would hope to make, and the quarter like that, doesn't happen. He shot 22 (free throws) on the game, I mean it's getting ridiculous at this point. It's just slowing the f------- game down."
Antetokounmpo had a different point of view.
"I love getting to the free throw line. I work on it. I'm shooting my free throws with confidence," he said. "It's easy points, for me and my teammates."
Coach Brad Stevens said the Celtics had to be better about staying out of the bonus.
"You want to be solid without fouling, you don't want to send guys to the line. At the same time you've got to provide resistance," he said. "It's easier said than done to balance that when you're already in the bonus."
The Celtics were able to close the deficit to five within the closing seconds of the game, but were never able to really get within reach of the Bucks.
A third quarter run by the Bucks also sunk the Celtics in game 2 of the series. They were outscored 38-19 in the third quarter of that game.
The one bright spot in the second half for Boston was a vicious dunk by Jaylen Brown over Antetokounmpo that gave them a 66-65 lead. Brown finished with 18 points on 6-12 shooting. The Celtics were led by Irving, who scored 29 points and chipped in five assists. Jayson Tatum scored 20 points. Al Horford finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.