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NBA playoffs: Celtics eliminate defending champion Bucks in Game 7

Milwaukee's Bobby Portis battles for control of the ball with Boston's Marcus Smart and Al Horford.
Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis, center, battles for control of the ball with Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, left, and center Al Horford during the Celtics’ win in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points and hit seven three-pointers, Jayson Tatum added 23 points and the Boston Celtics set a Game 7 record with 22 three-pointers to eliminate the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 on Sunday in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Boston will face top-seeded Miami beginning Tuesday in a rematch of the 2020 East finals. The Heat beat the Celtics in six games in that series at Walt Disney World.

The Celtics trailed early but outscored the Bucks 61-38 in the second half to cruise to the victory. Boston used a whopping 54-point advantage from behind the arc to improve to 25-9 in decisive seventh games.

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The Bucks are 3-9 in Game 7s. They went four for 33 (12.1%) from the three-point line. That’s the second-worst three-point percentage in a playoff game ever (minimum 30 attempts).

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Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. But he was just three for 11 in the paint in the second half, including one for six in the fourth quarter. Jrue Holiday added 21 points and eight assists. Brook Lopez finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Williams finished seven for 18 behind the arc as the Celtics completed the comeback after dropping Game 5 at home to fall into a 3-2 hole.

Boston started the second half on an 11-4 run to open a 59-47 lead.

It was 63-53 when Tatum went to the bench after being whistled for his fourth foul. But the Celtics rallied without him, outscoring the Bucks 16-11 the rest of the quarter to take a 79-64 lead to the fourth.

The Bucks led the entire first quarter as Antetokounmpo scored or assisted on 24 of Milwaukee’s 26 first-quarter points.

He ended the period with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help the Bucks grab a 26-20 lead.

Boston began to claw back in the second quarter, drawing a third foul on Bobby Portis at the 8:49 mark. TV cameras showed him tossing his goggles as he went to the bench area. He’d been wearing the goggles since suffering a right eye abrasion in Game 2 of Milwaukee’s first-round series against the Chicago Bulls.

With Portis on the bench, the Celtics took their first lead of the game on a dunk by Al Horford that punctuated a 12-2 run.

Boston led 45-43 in the final minute of the half when Tatum was called for an offensive foul drawn by Grayson Allen — Tatum’s third foul of the game.

Following an unsuccessful challenge by Celtics coach Ime Udoka, the teams exchanged misses. But after Marcus Smart’s steal near midcourt, Antetokounmpo fouled him as he attempted a last-second, three-point heave.

Smart connected on each of his three free throws to give Boston the 48-43 halftime lead.

Celtics center Robert Williams III didn’t play despite being available after missing three straight games with soreness and a bone bruise in his surgically repaired left knee.

Dallas Mavericks 123, Phoenix Suns 90

PHOENIX — Luka Doncic scored 35 points, Spencer Dinwiddie added 30 and Dallas stunned top-seeded Phoenix in a blowout, advancing to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2011.

Dallas broke through on the road after the home team won the first six games of the series, dominating in a hostile environment from start to finish. Conversely, it was an embarrassing no-show for the playoff-tested Suns — who advanced to the NBA Finals last season with a very similar roster.

The fourth-seeded Mavericks travel to face Golden State in Game 1 on Wednesday.

Doncic earned the Mavs an early lead, making his first three shots, including two three-pointers. That helped Dallas push to a 27-17 advantage in the first quarter and a whopping 57-27 cushion at the halftime break.

Doncic and Dinwiddie, who came off the bench, combined to pour in 48 of the Mavericks’ 57 points.

Game 7 drama? Not in the desert.

Simply put, the Suns looked overwhelmed by the pressure of a Game 7. They missed shots they usually make, made bad passes they usually don’t make and looked nothing like the team that won an NBA-best 64 games during the regular season.

Doncic was fantastic, making shots from all over the floor and finishing 12 of 19 from the field, including 6 of 11 on threes. He also got some help: Dinwiddie was fantastic in the first half with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 5 from three-point range.

Meanwhile, Phoenix’s All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker was never a factor. The 37-year-old Paul is a 12-time All-Star that has done just about everything possible in the game except win a championship.

Booker finished with 11 points and shot 3 of 14. Paul had 10 points and four assists. The Suns shot just 37.9% from the field.


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