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Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kemba Walker battle as Milwaukee Bucks fight off late comeback to defeat Boston Celtics

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marcus Smart [NBA Getty Images]

The Milwaukee Bucks got out to a 27-point lead at one point in the first half, but the Boston Celtics wouldn't go down without a fight.

The Celtics cut it as close as four points late in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get over the hump as the Bucks closed things out with a 128-123 victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's 32 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists led the way for Milwaukee, but he needed the help of his teammates to fend off an impressive 40 points and 11 rebounds from Kemba Walker.

For more on a hard-fought win for the Bucks, we have you covered with takeaways below.

Bucks 3-point shooting, transition offence put Celtics in a hole early

The Bucks started the game red hot from beyond the arc and didn't cool off throughout the entire first half.

Brook Lopez started the contest making Milwaukee's first three shots from 3-point land and Khris Middleton followed suit with a 3-ball of his own. Those four 3s helped the Bucks jump out to an 18-8 lead and the 3-point bombing didn't stop there.

Milwaukee finished the first half with 76 points - their highest scoring total for any half so far this season.

They destroyed the Celtics from the perimeter, shooting a blistering 80.0% on 12-of-15 from long range. Aside from Lopez's perfect 3-for-3 start, Middleton also shot 3-for-3 from deep while Donte DiVincenzo was 3-for-4 and George Hill, Kyle Korver and Eric Bledsoe all shot 1-for-1. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo went 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, joining DiVincenzo as the only player with a miss from that distance in the first half.

Boston, on the other hand, couldn't get anything to fall. They shot 7-for-25 (28.0%) from 3 and their misses quickly turned into fast-break points the other way for Milwaukee.

The Bucks outscored the Celtics 28-6 in transition, resulting in an easy overall 61.9% from the field, getting layup after layup.

Boston made a push early in the third quarter, but couldn't recover from this first-half barrage as it decided the outcome of the game.

Khris Middleton's favourite opponent

Khris Middleton turns into a different player when the Celtics are the opposition.

He started out with the hot hand against his favourite opponent yet again in this one, but cooled off slightly in the second half. Middleton finished the game with 23 points shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3 to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals, but only seven of those 23 points came after halftime.

Regardless of his second half, this isn't an outlying performance - Middleton has been doing this to Boston since their first-round playoff series back in 2018.

The one-time All-Star has faced off against the Celtics 17 times dating back to that playoff series. He's scored in double figures in every contest and has scored over 20 in 11 of those 17 games. He's also knocked down at least three 3-pointers in 14 of those 17 games.

Over that span, Middleton is averaging 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals per game against the Celtics, shooting 50.0% from the field, 51.3% from 3 and 84.6% from the free-throw line.

Tatum, Hayward struggle

Jaylen Brown was forced to miss this contest with a right thumb sprain suffered in the Celtics' loss to the Pistons the day prior.

Typically for this team, one of their top-four scorers out of the lineup means the other three feast with the extra offensive opportunities.

Kemba Walker certainly took advantage of those extra shots - but we'll get to that in a minute. Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, however, did not exactly do that.

Tatum began to get things going late in the game, but couldn't find a rhythm overall. He scored 20 points shooting 8-for-20 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point land. With a 20-point per game scorer already out of the lineup, they needed more than just 20 points on 20 shots from their second-best scorer.

And speaking of needing more... the Celtics needed much more from Hayward.

Hayward couldn't get much of anything to drop, going 1-for-10 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range. He finished the game with seven points, five rebounds and two assists, but his lack of production on offence made it nearly impossible for Boston to pull off the comeback.

With Brown's absence, the Bucks shooting efficiency, an okay game from Tatum and a rough game from Hayward, you would assume things were a lot uglier than the final score indicates. But the Celtics had a chance because of...

Kemba's heroics

Kemba Walker was a one-man show in this contest.

The four-time All-Star single-handedly kept his team alive in this game to the tune of a game-high 40 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

Any time the Bucks looked like they were going to walk away from this game with an effortless win, Walker made things difficult. He gave his team life at the end of the half and had 24 points heading into the locker room.

He surged their aggressive start to the third quarter and scored nine points in the fourth quarter to give his team a legitimate shot at winning a game they had no business being in.

Walker shot an efficient 14-for-23 (60.9%) from the field to go with four 3-pointers, but his heroic effort fell just short as Boston couldn't get over the hump.

Giannis being Giannis

It's ridiculous, but you look at Giannis Antetokounmpo's 32 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks and just kind of say, "okay, he had a good game."

The Greek Freak's monster double-double - which was nearly a triple-double - paced Milwaukee as it ever so often does. Antetokounmpo was having his way with the Celtics defence, even when they played him as aggressively as possible to force him to shoot free throws.

Giannis attempted a season-high-tying 20 free throws, but didn't have his best night from the charity stripe, only converting 10 of those 20. It hardly mattered, as the constant pressure Antetokounmpo put on the Celtics defence in the paint and around the rim prevented Boston from being able to string together stops consistently.

You may here more about Middleton shooting well against the Celtics again, or Donte DiVincenzo's career-high 19 points off the bench, or clutch shots from George Hill down the stretch, but don't get it twisted - the story of the game was Antetokounmpo putting together another MVP performance against a high-quality opponent.

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