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bucks vs. Celtics - NBA Game Recap - December 25, 2022

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BOSTON — Jaylen Brown knocked down his pitches in the fourth quarter. And then he knocked out Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Brown scored 13 of his 29 points in Game Four, and Jayson Tatum scored 41 for Boston on Sunday, helping the Celtics beat Milwaukee 139-118 in a match between the best two teams in the NBA.

Tatum scored 20 in the third quarter as the Celtics turned a one-point lead into a 100-86 lead. Brown took over in the fourth, contributing on defense with a pick that sent Antetokounmpo to the ground before he recovered and shoved Brown in the back.

“I thought I was playing well in physical defense, nothing dirty. It looked like it was a clean move,” Brown said. “Maybe he was a little frustrated. He got up and elbowed me, for whatever reason.”

After some back and forth, Antetokounmpo was given a technical foul and sent to the bench. The teams played the last 3:41 without further incident.

“There’s a difference between trying to be a tough guy and letting your opponent know I’m not backing down, I’m not afraid of any challenge or confrontation,” said Brown. “At that point, I was just letting him know that.”

Antetokounmpo, who landed hard on the hand Friday night but was cleared to start, scored 27 points with nine rebounds. Asked about his team’s ability to limit the damage done by Antetokounmpo, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said, “Limiting is crazy. He was 27.”

“He’s a great player,” he said, “and you have to be disciplined against him.”

Jrue Holiday scored 23 for Milwaukee, who lost a third straight game for the first time this season. The Celtics have also struggled lately, losing five out of six games before winning back-to-back games.

Still, Boston (24-10) has the best record in the league, followed by Milwaukee (22-11).

“Obviously, we lost to them last year in the playoffs and we’ve been fighting them since I came to Milwaukee,” said Bucks forward Pat Connaughton. “So it’s two teams that are very familiar with each other.”

“But it’s also December 25th. The NBA season is long and we will be a much better basketball team at the end of this year than we are now,” he said. “And I’m sure they will be too.”

The Celtics led by 10 in the first quarter and 11 in the second when Antetokounmpo fired back-to-back bricks from 3-point range and into the middle was buried by Jayson Tatum🇧🇷

Their lead dropped to one point, 62-61, before Bobby Portis fouled Brown on a desperate 3-pointer at the halftime bell. Brown missed all three free throws; he missed another in the third quarter before hitting the second and finished 2-6 from the line.

Boston pulled away in the third, opening up a double-digit lead that Milwaukee only briefly managed.

The teams met in the second round of last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Celtics won in seven games en route to the NBA Finals. It is their first meeting since then. Last Christmas in Milwaukee, the Bucks beat Boston 117-113.

TIP-INS

Antetokounmpo injured his hand after fouling the Nets on Friday night. The radiographs were negative. … Connaughton, a native of nearby Arlington, Massachusetts, made his first start of the season and scored 15. … The Celtics made five of their first six 3-point attempts. … Khris Middleton sat out his fifth straight game with a knee injury. He also missed the first 20 games of the season. … Sam Hauser hit a long 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer off an inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left. … Derrick White hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter. He had lost 15 straight out of six games.

NEXT

Bucks: Visit Bulls on Wednesday night.

Celtics: Host Rockets on Tuesday night.

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