5/6 Game 4 Preview: Bucks at Celtics
The Milwaukee Bucks went more than 30 years in between playoff wins in Boston. They'd much prefer to just go three days between their most recent postseason victory in Beantown and their next.
The Bucks look to take a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night, when they visit the Celtics in Game 4.
Milwaukee took a 2-1 series lead on Friday night, when likely NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly collected a triple-double (32 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists) as the Bucks outlasted the Celtics, 123-116.
It was the first playoff win in Boston for the Bucks since May 13, 1987. Granted, Milwaukee was just 0-5 in that span, but four of those losses came in an Eastern Conference first-round series last year, when the Celtics earned a seven-game win.
"I don't think we came here to prove a point," Bucks forward/guard Khris Middleton told reporters Friday night. "It's different seasons, different teams. We've been playing well on the road all year long."
The Bucks went 27-14 on the road in the regular season, which tied them with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors for the best road mark in the NBA.
"We're not worried about who we're playing against, really," Middleton said. "It's about us."
The Celtics, on the other hand, might be getting a little concerned with the impact Antetokounmpo is having on the game after he went 16-for-22 from the free-throw line in Game 3. He is just the sixth player this decade to take at least 22 trips to the line in a playoff game and first since Jimmy Butler had 24 free-throw attempts for the Chicago Bulls against the Celtics in a first-round game on Apr. 23, 2017.
Antetokounmpo has taken 50 free throws so far this series -- just five fewer than he attempted against the Celtics in last year's playoffs.
"What are you really going to do?" Celtics guard Kyrie Irving told reporters afterward. "It's slowing the game down. The run that you would hope to make in a quarter like that doesn't happen. I mean, he shot 22 on the game. It's getting ridiculous at this point. It's just slowing the (expletive) game down."
The win was the second straight for the Bucks, who briefly lost home-court advantage when they dropped a 112-90 decision to the Celtics in the series opener on Apr. 28. Milwaukee is looking to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2001 and to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
The Bucks are expected to once again be without guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is practicing with the team but hasn't played in a game since Mar. 15 due to a right plantar fascia tear.
The Celtics could get a key player back in guard Marcus Smart, who participated in practice Sunday. Smart has missed the last eight games -- the regular season finale plus all seven playoff games -- with an oblique injury suffered Apr. 7.