MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and had a key block with 53 seconds left, Khris Middleton added 20 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the short-handed Boston Celtics for a 106-102 win on Tuesday night.
Eric Bledsoe added 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting for the Bucks, who clinched their second straight winning season for the first time since back-to-back finishes over .500 in 1999-00 and 2000-01. One more win clinches a second consecutive postseason berth for Milwaukee.
Jaylen Brown scored 24 points for the Celtics, who had their six-game winning streak snapped.
Boston was forced to start two-way player Kadeem Allen with injuries sidelining yet another guard. This time, Terry Rozier didn’t play because of sprained left ankle. Shane Larkin was already out because of illness. Guards Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have already missed extended time with injuries.
Yet the Celtics still posed a challenge deep into the fourth quarter with forwards Al Horford and Jayson Tatum, along with Brown, each assuming ball-handling duties at times.
After Boston double-teamed Middleton and forced him to step out of bounds, Tatum bolted unchallenged down the lane to get the Celtics within 103-100 with 22 seconds left.
The Bucks used up nearly nine seconds on the ensuing inbounds play before Antetokounmpo was fouled. The All-Star forward hit free throws to seal the win.
This will surely boost confidence for the Bucks, who are tied with Washington for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They could face second-place Boston in the first round.
Another good sign for Milwaukee: runs of 11-3 and 16-4 during the game while Antetokounmpo was resting on the bench.
The sharpshooting Tatum hit a 3 just before the halftime buzzer to get Boston within 58-56. The bucket also gave Tatum his 102nd 3 of the season, a franchise rookie record.
Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens said that Rozier was “80 to 85 percent” after shootaround earlier Tuesday. Stevens was being cautious with Rozier, with the availabilities of Irving (left knee) and Smart (right thumb) in question when the playoffs start next week.
Bucks: C Thon Maker (right groin) was available but did not play after missing four games. … G Malcolm Brogdon appears to be inching closer to a return following a left quad injury that has kept him out since early February. He would be a valuable addition for the postseason.
“The hard part is the rhythm and I think a lot of people will talk about the rhythm for him,” coach Joe Prunty said about the challenge of acclimating Brogdon back into the lineup with four games left in the regular season. “That is the balancing act though … the fewer games, the harder it is. We will manage that as best as we can with the games that are available.”
Celtics: Stevens wasn’t sure if Rozier would be available for Boston’s next game on Wednesday in Toronto.
Bucks: Host the Brooklyn Nets visit on Thursday.
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