The Milwaukee Bucks held serve on their home court with an impressive 116-92 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Bucks asserted their will right out of the gate, taking a 27-12 lead after the first quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a solid showing with 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Khris Middleton, though, led Milwaukee's offensive charge with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
After allowing an average of 116.5 points in the first two games, Milwaukee's defense stymied Boston's offensive attack.
Entering Friday's game down 0-2 in the series, the Bucks had their backs against the wall. The BMO Harris Bradley Center was the perfect cure for what ailed them. They won 25 of their 41 games at home during the regular season, and have now put themselves right back in this series heading into Sunday's Game 4.
Even though Middleton did most of the heavy lifting for Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo didn't let this game go by without providing one massive highlight-reel dunk:
A total of five Bucks players scored in double figures, including Jabari Parker with 17 off the bench. It was a dramatic turnaround for the former Duke star after he had just two points on 1-of-7 shooting combined in the first two games.
Parker made it known on Thursday that he wasn't happy with the way Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty was using him, via ESPN's Nick Friedell:
"For myself, I just try to be a good teammate. I'm not getting what I want right now, but I think there's a bigger picture. I think I did a better job the second game. Not to harp on the first game, but look, I'm human, right? I deserved to be out there and I earned it. Six games and to see that like, I'm not going to handle it well. I have feelings. I've been waiting two years. I've been waiting. And to see that time get cut short—nobody is going to handle that the right way."
Prunty appeared to take Parker's words to heart. The 23-year-old played 30 minutes against the Celtics on Friday, his most in a game since April 7 against the New York Knicks.
The Ringer's Shea Serrano had this assessment of Parker's performance on Friday:
Milwaukee's defensive effort in Game 3 was equally as impressive as its scoring ability. The Celtics were held to just 40.0 percent shooting, including 8-of-24 from three-point range.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted how bad things were for Boston in the first half:
Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were two of the biggest reasons for the Celtics' success in the first two games:
Taking the place of the injured Kyrie Irving, Rozier had 23 points without a turnover in each of the first two games of the series.
In Game 3, Rozier had just nine points and committed five turnovers. Brown's performance was more in line with his season numbers, scoring 11 points and grabbing four rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Celtics came into the postseason with a lot of questions about how their ailing roster would fare. Things looked fine after they took a 2-0 series lead playing at home, but this was the first time there appeared to be cracks in the foundation for head coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens did take a pragmatic approach to Friday's defeat in the postgame press conference:
The Celtics will only have one day off to think about this loss as they try to get back on track and take a commanding 3-1 series lead before heading back home for Game 5 on Tuesday.
After looking out of sorts on the road, Milwaukee appeared to be much more comfortable on its home court. The Bucks figured out how to slow down Boston's offense, giving them a clear road map to even the series up in Game 4 on Sunday.