Antetokounmpo has 32, Bucks beat Celtics 123-116 in Game 3

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives past Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving during the first half of Game 3 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Friday, May 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON — Giannis Antetokounmpo kept attacking and the Boston Celtics kept fouling.

The fouls may have slowed the second half of Game 3, but nothing could stop Antetokounmpo from putting together a signature performance in TD Garden.

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Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds, George Hill finished with 21 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Boston 123-116 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Khris Middleton added 20 points.

Antetokounmpo had only 13 field goal attempts but had 16 points from the free throw line in a game that featured 53 total fouls called — 39 in the second half. Including Milwaukee’s two regular-season games in Boston, Antetokounmpo has scored 30 or more points in each of his trips to TD Garden in 2018-19.

“I’m just gonna keep being aggressive. That’s what my teammates want me to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “If I have to take it all the way, I’ll take it all the way.”

Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and Jayson Tatum had 20 for the Celtics, who host Game 4 on Monday.

Boston led by a point at the half but was outscored 40-31 in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 17 points in the final period.

The Celtics were also outscored 52-24 in the paint and had 18 turnovers leading to 28 Milwaukee points.

Irving acknowledged the fouls did slow down the game and stunt Boston’s efforts late.

“It’s getting ridiculous at this point,” Irving said, using an expletive to describe the lulls the fouls created.

The Bucks threw the Celtics a tactical curveball in Game 2, inserting Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup in place of Sterling Brown.

In Game 3 it was Celtics coach Brad Stevens who brought new wrinkles, notably going with a small lineup that featured 6-foot-7 Semi Ojeleye guarding the 6-11 Antetokounmpo when he returned to the game at the start of the second quarter and again in the third quarter.

Boston also kept going at Antetokounmpo throughout the game when it had the ball. It included a one-handed dunk by Jaylen Brown over the Bucks’ star early in the third quarter that brought the Celtics fans inside TD Garden to their feet. It was reminiscent of a two-handed dunk he had over Antetokounmpo in Boston’s Game 1 win.

Friday’s version complemented several nice defensive plays by Brown, including blocking a Tony Snell layup attempt off the backboard.

Still, Milwaukee managed to keep racking up points in the paint. The Bucks led by as many as 12 in the third quarter and took a 95-87 lead into the fourth.

That was the score when Brown was called for his fifth foul with 10:53 left on what appeared to be a light touch of Eric Bledsoe near the baseline. It brought animated protests from both Brown and Stevens. A few trips later, Tatum received a technical for protesting his foul of Antetokounmpo.

Stevens said he didn’t think his team was overly frustrated by the foul calls.

“I just think ultimately they made a lot of plays in that quarter and we didn’t,” he said.

The Bucks started to rack up points at the line and their lead grew to 114-97 by the time Brown came back into the game with 4:53 remaining.

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Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo is hard to stop when he’s this locked in to finding ways to score and get his teammates involved.

“He’s just such a force. He can get through cracks,” Budenholzer said. “He’s going to finish or get to the free throw line a lot if he keeps playing like this.”

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