MILWAUKEE — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics beat the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night.
The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics edged the Bucks 2-1 in the season series, which would have given Boston the tiebreaker if both teams finished with the same record.
Boston’s performance in those three games against Milwaukee should give the Celtics confidence that they can knock off the Bucks again if they meet in the postseason. The Celtics defeated the Bucks in seven games in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics beat the Bucks 139-118 in Boston on Christmas Day. And Lost 131-125 in overtime on February 14. The Celtics didn’t play Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart or Al Horford in that overtime loss.
Milwaukee won on the ground and in position. Bucs forward Khris Middleton left the game midway through the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face from Brown. The play resulted in a charging foul on Brown and stitches in Middleton’s upper lip.
Boston built a 114-74 lead through three periods, forcing both teams to sit most of their starters in the fourth quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points.
It’s tied for the Bucs’ worst loss of the season. They fell 142-101 at Memphis on December 15th.
A night later the Bucks were playing 149-136 win at Indiana They had Jrue Holiday’s 51 points and Antetokounmpo’s 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists while shooting a season-high 62.4% from the floor. It was the first time a player on one NBA team scored at least 50 points and another had a triple-double with at least 35 points in the same game.
Milwaukee was a bit tougher Thursday.
Antetokounmpo shot 11 of 27, including 0 of 5 from 3-point range. Holiday started his night by sinking a 3-pointer, but went 1 of 7 the rest of the way and finished with just six points.
After the game’s first 8½ minutes, which featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Celtics took control by going on a 29-9 run over the final seven-plus minutes. Boston scored 13 straight points to cap that spurt.
Boston didn’t let up all night.
Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo was ejected with 1:25 left for headbutting Boston’s Blake Griffin. Griffin was hit in the head after a flaunt-1 foul against Antetokounmpo.
Celtics: Boston outscored Milwaukee 41-21 in the second period and tied a season-high second quarter point total. … Payton Pritchard didn’t play because of a sore left heel.
Bucs: Middleton and Joe Ingles return to action after pitching the Bucs to a win at Indiana. As Middleton and Ingles both returned from knee injuries earlier this season, the Bucs typically avoided back-to-back nights. … Meyers Leonard missed seventh straight game with left calf strain.
Celtics: Host the Utah Jazz on Friday. In their only previous match this season, The Celtics lost 118-117 in Utah On March 18.
Bucks: Philadelphia hosts the 76ers on Sunday. The Bucs are 1-2 against the 76 this season. 133-130 including loss of house On March 4, it snapped Milwaukee’s 16-game hitting streak. ——
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