The Champions get out of jail amid refereeing row
The Bucks take the lead in the series in spite of a poor fourth quarter. Celtics boss Ime Udoka complained about the last two refereeing decisions.
The series between the Celtics and the Bucks came to Milwaukee, the home of the defending NBA champions. The Fiserv Forum, a pavilion that played a big part in pushing the Bucks to the 2021 ring, demonstrated its power on Saturday night. Because of the atmosphere, the energy it gives the players - or because of the referees, (17 free throws awarded to the Bucks, 34 to the Celtics). The referee was at the centre of a debate in play that led to the going 3 up as well as in the penultimate move from the visitors. In the first, Jrue Holiday shoved Jayson Tatum, who was marking him just before shooting. In the second, Marcus Smart was about to shoot from the perimeter when he was fouled - but it wasn’t spotted and he was given two free throws instead of three - with 4.6 seconds remaining and the scoreboard reading 103-100...
Smart sank the first, missed the second, pulled down his own rebound, then missed; Robert Williams took the rebound and also missed. Al Horford got the offensive rebound again and missed his putback. Finally the Dominican center once again picked up his own rebound to this time put it in... but out of time. Had it entered it would have forced overtime. A play with four attempts below the rim that had Bucks fans chewing their nails down to the quick. Moments before, the Celtics had managed to get ahead for the first time since just after the break. The third quarter had not gone well for the visitors. Jrue Holiday, Brook López, an inspired Pat Conaughton, a tireless Bobby Portis... Together they left them with 17 points during those 12 minutes. Among them, as always, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giant display from Giannis
Antetokounmpo put up a massive performance, ending with 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks. It was a much less productive night for Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who had probably his worst game of the playoffs - 10 points, 4/19 shooting from the field and 0/6 3-point shooting. Special mention for Wesley Mathews, who finished 0/10.
Milwaukee go 2-1 up in the series and Saturday’s win could be key, because in series as closely-fought as this one, the third game often marks how the rest of the tie is played out. The Bucks have shown twice that despite being without their second best player, their champion spirit and desire to win remains intact. The Celtics will come out fighting in Game 4 on Monday, in what will be a life-or-death match for them.