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Defense found: Bucks overwhelm Celtics for 116-92 win

MILWAUKEE (AP) Length and athleticism make the Milwaukee Bucks a dangerous team with the ball.

When they defend the way they did on Friday night against the Boston Celtics, they're nearly unstoppable.

Khris Middleton scored 23 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 and the Bucks used a dominating first half to overwhelm the Celtics 116-92, narrowing their deficit in the first-round playoff series to 2-1.

Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker each added 17 for the energized Bucks, who held the Celtics without a field goal for nearly an 11-minute stretch of the first half.

Milwaukee found its defense after a disheartening 14-point loss in Game 2, getting contributions from up and down the roster.

''We realized how important this game was ... Everybody that played came in ready to go,'' Antetokounmpo said.

Backup center Thon Maker scored 14 points and had five of the Bucks' 12 blocks. Pesky guard Matthew Dellavedova, a veteran of a championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, helped hold young Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting.

The Bucks were the aggressors all night long.

''The activity, if you take the stat sheet out of it, the activity and the energy that we brought ... as you go through the game, that's what you need, is the energy first,'' coach Joe Prunty said.

Al Horford scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell behind by 23 at halftime and got no closer than 76-62 with 3:06 left in the third quarter on Jayson Tatum's 3-pointer.

The game was so well in hand that the Bucks closed out the victory with Antetokounmpo on the bench for much of the fourth quarter with five fouls. Middleton had eight points in the fourth.

Game 4 is Sunday in Milwaukee. The Celtics will need to get off to a much better start if they want to avoid going home with a 2-2 series tie.

''We got into a hole. This is new for our group,'' Horford said. ''They had it going ... and we really didn't have an answer for them tonight.''

Milwaukee hustled for loose balls and stayed active around the paint, using its length to get deflections and disrupt Boston in the lane.

The 7-foot-1 Maker, in particular, provided a huge boost to help Milwaukee counter what had been a decisive edge off the bench for the Celtics. Maker got extended minutes only because starting center John Henson missed the game with a sore back.

Nearly everything else went Milwaukee's way, too.

Parker, who voiced displeasure this week after playing just 24 minutes over the first two games, was 7 of 12 from the field and played 30 minutes. Bledsoe, outplayed by Rozier in the first two games, shot 8 of 13.

''Obviously, it was all in the first half,'' Celtics coach Brad Stevens said about his team's downfall. ''They were in such a rhythm offensively.''

TIP-INS

Celtics: Rozier had five turnovers, but four came in a first quarter in which the Celtics fell behind 27-12. He had nine assists ... Boston held a 45-37 edge in rebounding, including 17-7 on the offensive glass. But the Celtics allowed the Bucks to shoot at least 57 percent for a second straight game.

Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon replaced Tony Snell at guard alongside Bledsoe. Brogdon, who missed two months late in the season with a quad injury, scored five points but helped limit the Celtics' backcourt of Rozier and Jaylen Brown (11 points). ... Middleton added eight rebounds and seven assists.

MAKER'S MARK

Maker made his teammates proud, especially after having a conversation with Antetokounmpo a couple weeks ago.

''I told him we had to bring killer mentality back,'' Antetokounmpo said. ''He was hungry.''

Maker was 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. He also played with passion, getting in opponents' faces at times.

''We can't get too sped up or get slowed down,'' Maker said. ''We've just got to find our rhythm and play with pace.''

ON POINT

Colorful comments made by Rozier and Bledsoe earlier in the series fueled speculation that there might be a budding feud between the point guards.

Bledsoe outplayed his counterpart on Friday night.

''There's nothing about me and Bledsoe. There's nothing that he did differently today,'' Rozier said. ''They punched us in the mouth early. We've got to do a better job of responding on Sunday, and we will.''

HE SAID IT

''For me, it's about seeing the offense, finding my spots to be aggressive ... just playing in rhythm.'' - Middleton after he shot 10 of 17 from the field.

UP NEXT

Game 4 is Sunday afternoon at the Bradley Center.

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Key Players
A. Horford
42 C
G. Antetokounmpo
34 PF
36.7 Min. Per Game 36.7
26.9 Pts. Per Game 26.9
4.8 Ast. Per Game 4.8
10.0 Reb. Per Game 10.0
49.0 Field Goal % 53.0
48.9 Three Point % 53.0
78.5 Free Throw % 76.0
  Offensive rebound by Sterling Brown 0:13
  Brandon Jennings missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:18
+ 3 Semi Ojeleye made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Greg Monroe 0:38
  Offensive rebound by Greg Monroe 0:38
  Abdel Nader missed reverse layup 0:41
+ 3 Shabazz Muhammad made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Tyler Zeller 0:52
  Bad pass turnover on Greg Monroe, stolen by Tyler Zeller 1:09
  Offensive rebound by Greg Monroe 1:18
  Guerschon Yabusele missed free throw 1:18
  Shooting foul on Tyler Zeller 1:18
+ 2 Guerschon Yabusele made reverse layup, assist by Abdel Nader 1:18
Team Stats
Points 92 116
Field Goals 32-80 (40.0%) 45-79 (57.0%)
3-Pointers 8-24 (33.3%) 16-33 (48.5%)
Free Throws 20-28 (71.4%) 10-15 (66.7%)
Total Rebounds 54 41
Offensive 17 7
Defensive 28 30
Team 9 4
Assists 17 28
Steals 3 8
Blocks 2 13
Turnovers 16 9
Fouls 15 27
Technicals 1 0
15 PTS, 12 REB, 2 AST
23 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST
1234T
away team logo Celtics 2-1 1223322592
home team logo Bucks 1-2 27312731116
Team Stats
away team logo Celtics 2-1 101.4 PPG 41.7 RPG 21.2 APG
home team logo Bucks 1-2 101.9 PPG 38.6 RPG 22.0 APG
Key Players
A. Horford C 12.9 PPG 7.4 RPG 4.7 APG 48.9 FG%
K. Middleton SF 20.1 PPG 5.2 RPG 4.0 APG 46.6 FG%
Top Scorers
A. Horford C 16 PTS 3 REB 1 AST
K. Middleton SF 23 PTS 8 REB 7 AST
40.0 FG% 57.0
33.3 3PT FG% 48.5
71.4 FT% 66.7
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
A. Horford 24 16 3 1 0 0 2 2 7/13 1/2 1/1 1 2 19 -12
J. Tatum 27 14 5 0 0 1 0 0 5/11 1/3 3/5 1 4 20 -17
J. Brown 29 11 4 1 0 0 0 2 4/9 1/3 2/2 1 3 17 -11
T. Rozier 31 9 2 9 2 0 5 1 2/7 1/5 4/5 0 2 26 -10
A. Baynes 29 8 8 1 0 1 0 2 3/3 2/2 0/0 3 5 19 -8
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
A. Horford 24 16 3 1 0 0 2 2 7/13 1/2 1/1 1 2 19 -12
J. Tatum 27 14 5 0 0 1 0 0 5/11 1/3 3/5 1 4 20 -17
J. Brown 29 11 4 1 0 0 0 2 4/9 1/3 2/2 1 3 17 -11
T. Rozier 31 9 2 9 2 0 5 1 2/7 1/5 4/5 0 2 26 -10
A. Baynes 29 8 8 1 0 1 0 2 3/3 2/2 0/0 3 5 19 -8
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
G. Monroe 23 15 12 2 0 0 5 0 4/12 0/0 7/10 7 5 26 -12
M. Morris 24 7 5 0 0 0 4 3 2/8 1/1 2/2 0 5 8 -20
A. Nader 12 4 2 2 1 0 0 1 2/6 0/2 0/0 1 1 11 -6
S. Ojeleye 12 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1/4 1/3 0/0 1 1 5 -6
G. Yabusele 6 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1/2 0/0 1/3 2 0 7 +1
S. Larkin 18 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 1/5 0/3 0/0 0 0 2 -19
X. Silas - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Hayward - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Irving - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Bird - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Smart - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Allen - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Gibson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Theis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 235 92 45 17 3 2 16 15 32/80 8/24 20/28 17 28 160 -120
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Middleton 32 23 8 7 1 1 1 3 10/17 3/6 0/1 0 8 46 +17
G. Antetokounmpo 27 19 5 6 2 2 2 5 8/13 3/4 0/0 0 5 38 +16
E. Bledsoe 26 17 4 4 0 1 1 3 8/13 0/3 1/1 1 3 29 +13
M. Brogdon 28 5 3 3 0 0 2 3 2/8 1/4 0/0 1 2 12 +8
T. Zeller 18 2 2 1 1 1 0 3 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 8 +2
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Middleton 32 23 8 7 1 1 1 3 10/17 3/6 0/1 0 8 46 +17
G. Antetokounmpo 27 19 5 6 2 2 2 5 8/13 3/4 0/0 0 5 38 +16
E. Bledsoe 26 17 4 4 0 1 1 3 8/13 0/3 1/1 1 3 29 +13
M. Brogdon 28 5 3 3 0 0 2 3 2/8 1/4 0/0 1 2 12 +8
T. Zeller 18 2 2 1 1 1 0 3 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 8 +2
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Parker 30 17 5 2 1 2 1 4 7/12 1/4 2/4 2 3 28 +17
T. Maker 24 14 5 0 1 5 0 2 3/5 3/4 5/7 1 4 25 +23
T. Snell 22 6 3 1 1 1 0 0 2/3 2/3 0/0 1 2 13 +17
M. Dellavedova 16 5 1 4 0 0 1 2 2/2 1/1 0/0 0 1 13 +12
S. Muhammad 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1/2 1/1 0/0 0 0 3 -2
S. Brown 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 2 1/1 1/1 0/0 1 0 5 -2
B. Jennings 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0/2 0/2 2/2 0 0 1 -1
J. Terry - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Henson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
X. Munford - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Plumlee - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Wilson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 233 116 37 28 8 13 9 27 45/79 16/33 10/15 7 30 221 +120