A replay overturned what would have been the NBA’s sixth MVP foul with 1:28 remaining and he took his second chance, helping the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics 119-112 on Friday night.
Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the Bucks’ opener on the restart. Milwaukee improved the NBA’s best record to 54-12 and clinched the win by seizing the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row.
It emerged that the Bucks should do it without the Greek Freak when Marcus Smart slipped past an Antetokounmpo at the wheel as he scored in the lane. A charge was called but ultimately canceled, with Smart saying the referees’ official explanation was that it was too late.
“Frankly, I think we know all about it. Giannis’ sixth foul and they didn’t want to bring him out, ”said Smart. “Let’s just call this spade a spade and that’s exactly what it is.”
The Bucks disagreed.
“I felt like he was moving on the last play, but anyway if it was a load, if it wasn’t a load, I’m happy we got the win and I’ll learn from the game, ”Antetokounmpo said.
Antetokounmpo managed the free kick to bring the score to 110-107. Khris Middleton then reversed a 3-point for a six-point advantage.
Middleton added 18 points for the Bucks, who played without Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton as they work on their conditioning after testing positive for the coronavirus. Marvin Williams sat down with a straight left groin.
Smart scored 23 points for the Celtics and Jaylen Brown had 22, but star forward Jayson Tatum had a nightmarish recovery. He had five points in shooting 2 for 18 – even though he actually only made one basket.
Kemba Walker has scored 16 points, but has only played 19 minutes as the Celtics look to keep the All-Star goalkeeper healthy after battling knee pain.
Milwaukee had lost its last three games before the season’s suspension in March, but came back looking like the team that otherwise has dominated opponents all season. The Bucks took a 17-2 lead and should have thrown a shutout. Boston’s only basket came when Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews fell into Walker’s missed 3-pointer. Tatum was recognized for the basket as the Celtics’ closest player.
“I thought we had a good frame of mind in the first five minutes,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said.
Celtics: Gordon Hayward scored 17 points and Daniel Theis had 13 points and 12 rebounds. … Boston has fallen to 3-8, counting the playoffs, against the Bucks in the past two seasons. Milwaukee eliminated the Celtics in five games in the Eastern semifinals last year.
Bucks: Lopez had six shots blocked. … Coach Mike Budenholzer has said he believes Williams’ injury is not serious and that he hopes the forward may be available soon. He believes Williams was injured in the second scrum and felt sore the next morning.
The game featured all of the Eastern Conference monthly winners this season. Antetokounmpo won in October / November, December and January before Tatum landed the first of his career in February.
Celtics: Play Portland on Sunday.
Bucks: Play Houston on Sunday.