Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols to score 36 points this morning, but Wesley Matthews stole the spotlight when he knocked down a three-pointer with 30.3 seconds left to give the Milwaukee Bucks their first lead en route to a 117-113 win over the Boston Celtics.
Trailing by 13 points with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee appeared destined to come up short before Antetokounmpo poured on 12 points to finish out the term.
According to ESPN’s win probability, the Celtics were a 98.9 per cent chance of winning the match when they led by 13 points with 5:15 remaining in the game.
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Boston’s defeat left the NBA world stunned, with several pundits taking to social media to take aim at the Celtics.
Meanwhile, seeing his first action since December 12, Antetokounmpo played 30 minutes and connected on 13 of 23 shots while shooting 10 for 15 from the free-throw line.
“He’s a guy who likes his reps, the touches and feels he gets,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo. “It took a half for him to kind of knock the cobwebs off but he had a great second half and I’m really impressed by him.”
Milwaukee also got centre Bobby Portis and guard Donte DiVincenzo back from COVID-19 protocols in time for the televised Christmas showdown.
Boston had just eight players available after putting Dennis Schroder in the protocols earlier this morning but took control behind Jaylen Brown, who scored 14 of his 25 points in the opening quarter. Jayson Tatum also scored 25 for Boston, which led by as many as 19 and went into halftime with a 35-22 advantage.
Milwaukee trimmed the deficit to one when Middleton knocked down a three-pointer with 3:39 left in the third. But the Celtics answered with five straight and opened the fourth with a 8-0 run, including six from Parker, who converted a three-point play to make it 102-90 with 10:15 to play.
Portis’ put-back with 8 minutes left was the start of the Bucks’ charge, tying the game at 111 when Antetokounmpo scored and drew a foul with 1:26 left. He missed the free throw and Brown made a pair on the other end to put Boston back in front.
But Matthews buried his 3 for a 114-113 lead, and the Bucks held on.
Portis finished with 16 points, while DiVincenzo, who hadn’t played since suffering a left foot injury in the playoffs last season, got his first and only points on a 3-pointer late in the third quarter.
“I think we can only go up from here,” Celtics guard Payton Richard said. “We’re learning how we’re gonna finish games. So for us, we’ve got to take it as a good thing. We’re growing, so eventually we’ll get good at that area and we’ll then be able to take care of it.”
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