Celtics-Bucks takeaways: Giannis shines, Tatum struggles as C's drop Game 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics made it interesting, but their fourth-quarter surge wasn't enough to propel them to a Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
After scoring only 17 points in a brutal third quarter, the C's offense woke up and dropped 18 in the first 4:30 of the fourth. They finished with 34 in the frame, but that still was two less than they needed.
It came down to the final play as Al Horford's tip-in nearly sent that game into overtime. Horford didn't get the shot off in time though, resulting in a 103-101 Bucks victory and a 2-1 series lead for Milwaukee.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo shined in front of the Fiserv Forum crowd with 42 points. Jaylen Brown and Al Horford countered with 27 and 22 respectively, but it wasn't enough to outweigh the lackluster performance from Jayson Tatum (10 points). As a team, Boston shot only 37.2 percent from the field.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is set for Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here are our takeaways from the Celtics' tough loss.
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Can't keep Giannis down for long
The Celtics had done a nice job defending Giannis Antetokounmpo through the first two games of the series. The two-time MVP shot only 20-for-52 (38.4 percent) from the field in Games 1 and 2 combined.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer noted after Tuesday's game that Antetokounmpo "always figures things out." He wasn't kidding. The Greek Freek put on a show in front of his home crowd with 42 points (16-30 FG), 12 rebounds, and eight assists. He also notched two steals and two blocks.
It was Antetokounmpo's aggressiveness that stood out compared to his previous performances in the series. He set the tone with his physicality, and that proved to be the difference-maker in this gritty Game 3.
Off day for Jayson Tatum
There's no sugarcoating it: this was Jayson Tatum's worst performance in recent memory. It also was the worst postseason performance of the Celtics star's career.
Tatum had only 10 points, his lowest total since Nov. 28 vs. the Toronto Raptors when he scored eight. He shot only 4-for-19 from the field -- 0-for-10 when defended by Wesley Matthews -- marking his worst shooting performance in the playoffs. His previous worst was a 2-for-10 outing in Game 2 of the 2019 second round vs. Milwaukee.
Had Tatum played even an average game, the Celtics probably win handily. Boston will need its superstar to step up in a must-win Game 4 on Monday.
Jaylen Brown, Al Horford carry the load
With Tatum off his game, the Celtics were left looking for the hot hand. Both Jaylen Brown and Al Horford stepped up to give the C's a chance to pull off an improbable victory.
Brown delivered in the clutch with 15 of his 27 points coming in the fourth quarter. He shot 8-for-16 from the field while bringing down 12 boards and dishing four assists.
Horford starred with 22 points (9-16 FG, 4-7 3-PT) and a game-high 16 rebounds. The 35-year-old came through with the tip-in that would've forced OT, but it came milliseconds after the final buzzer.
It was a rough day for the rest of the C's offense as Derrick White was the next-highest scorer with 14 points off the bench.
Live by the 3, die by the 3
After shooting 46.5 percent from beyond the arc in Game 2, the Celtics were trigger happy in Game 3. The strategy didn't work out for them this time around.
Boston passed up a number of mid-range jumpers in favor of the 3. The result was a 9-for-33 (27.3 percent) shooting performance from long range.
Milwaukee didn't shoot any better from distance (9-for-34), but the Celtics' reliance on the 3-point shot came back to bite them. It didn't work out for them in Game 1 either, and it could prove costly if they continue to depend on it the remainder of this series.