Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks pulled away late to beat the Boston Celtics 97-86 on Thursday night to force a Game 7 in the first-round series.
Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon each added 16 points, with Brogdon hitting a momentum-swinging 3 from the left corner to give the Bucks a two-possession lead with 5:22 left. The Bucks held the Celtics at bay from there to force the winner-take-all game Saturday night in Boston.
The up-and-coming Bucks haven’t played a seventh game in the playoffs since losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in 2010.
Both teams went on extended runs to take big leads.
The Bucks made the last big push to close out the Celtics.
Boston had to settle for perimeter looks down the stretch. They couldn’t hit enough 3s, finishing 10 of 36 (28 percent) on the night, and the Bucks limited Boston on the glass.
On offense, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks’ charge right at the heart of the Celtics’ defense.
After Eric Bledsoe picked off Jayson Tatum’s inbounds pass, Antetokounmpo converted an offensive rebound with a putback off the glass for an 89-81 lead with 3:08 left. It was part of an 11-3 run late to help the Bucks pull away for 10-point advantage.
With his team facing elimination, Antetokounmpo vowed to be more aggressive following a five-point loss in Game 5.
The two-time All-Star produced in the crunch time, scoring 20 points in the second half on 8-of-14 shooting.
Tatum finished with 22 points, and Terry Rozier had 18 for the Celtics. After holding the edge on the glass for most of the series, Boston got outrebounded 48-39.