BOSTON (AP) — Kemba Walker had 21 of his 32 points in the second half and the Boston Celtics rallied to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-105 on Wednesday night.
Jayson Tatum added 25 points, Gordon Hayward had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcus Smart finished with 19 points and six assists.
Milwaukee dominated in the first half, leading 19. But the Celtics responded in the third quarter, using a 26-7 run over the final 6:38 of the period to take an 80-76 edge into the fourth.
Boston kept that momentum, beginning the final period with an 11-4 run to open a 91-80 lead.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 26 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points and 14 rebounds, but the reigning MVP lost his composure late, first picking up a hard foul on Smart and then a technical foul in the final minute.
The Celtics started Daniel Theis at center and the defensive-minded Smart at guard with Jaylen Brown out with an illness and Enes Kanter sidelined for the third straight game with a bruised left knee.
It did little to stop the much bigger Bucks front line from getting in the paint early on as Milwaukee sliced through Boston’s interior and hit nine 3-pointers on their way to a 58-42 halftime lead.
Bucks: Antetokounmpo had his third straight double-double. … Milwaukee had a 37-8 edge in bench scoring.
Celtics: Walker, Tatum and Hayward were a combined 7 of 26 from the field in the first half.
Antetokounmpo airballed a pair of free throws with 1:46 left in the second quarter, igniting a chorus of cheers from the home crowd.
But Antetokounmpo, who entered the night shooting just 54 percent from the line, bounced back at the end of the half by connecting on all three of his free throw attempts after being fouled by Smart with one second to play.
One of the memories that still stands out for Celtics coach Brad Stevens about serving as Eastern Conference All-Star Game coach in 2017 is what Antetokounmpo — then a first-time All-Star — told him before the game.
“I remember him telling me, ‘I’m going to play hard,'” Stevens recalled. “I’m like, ‘You might be one of a few.’ But that’s the deal, right? He just plays really hard.”
Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points, six rebounds, three steals and a block that night.
Bucks: At Orlando on Friday night.
Celtics: Host New York on Friday night.