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Celtics open big lead, hold on to beat Bucks without Giannis, 122-119

Bucks Celtics Basketball
Posted at 9:14 AM, Mar 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-21 10:14:42-04

BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 31 points on Wednesday night to help the Boston Celtics win their seventh game in a row, taking advantage of the absence of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 122-119.

Payton Pritchard added 19 points and six rebounds off the bench for Boston, scoring 10 points in the second quarter — as many as Milwaukee had as a team. He also grabbed four rebounds in the second, including an offensive board he took away from Brook Lopez, a player a full foot taller.

Derrick White had 23 points and eight assists, while Jaylen Brown finished with 21 points and eight boards for Boston.

Damian Lillard scored 32, including a 3-pointer in the final second. Bobby Portis had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who had won two in a row.

Although the game was a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders, the Celtics hold an 11-game edge over the second-seeded Bucks in the race for home-court advantage. Any other juice in the potential playoff preview was lost when Antetokounmpo was ruled out for the second straight game with a left hamstring problem.

It was 10-all when the Celtics scored 13 of the next 15 points to open an 11-point lead. The Bucks cut it to two before the end of the first quarter, but Boston used a 21-8 run – with 10 points coming from Pritchard -- to make it an 18-point lead in the second.

Likely irked by a “too small” gesture from Milwaukee's Patrick Beverley, Pritchard also had the most assists (three) and rebounds (four) in the quarter, including one board that he swiped from Lopez. Frustrated, the 7-foot-1 center pushed him away in disgust.

Pritchard celebrated by flexing his muscles and slapping hands with Kristaps Porzingis; Tatum waved his arms to encourage the crowd, which rose to give the 6-1 point guard a standing ovation.

Boston led by as many as 21 points but the Bucks didn't get within single digits until the final minutes, when they scored 10 straight points — eight of them, including back-to-back long 3-pointers, from Portis — to turn a 13-point lead into a one-possession game.

But Portis missed a 3, Tatum hit a pair of free throws and then the Celtics star drove for a layup to make it 114-107 with 1:38 to play.

Antetokounmpo also missed the Bucks’ 140-129 home victory over Phoenix on Sunday. He has missed five games this season; Milwaukee is 3-2 without him.

The Greek star, 29, ranks third in the NBA in scoring (30.8), sixth in rebounding (11.2) and 15th in assists (6.4) this season.


Bucks: Host Brooklyn on Thursday night.

Celtics: At Detroit on Friday night.