Giannis, Kris Middleton Lead Bucks Past Jayson Tatum, Celtics in Narrow Win

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMarch 25, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo passes around Boston Celtics' Robert Williams III during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Make it eight wins in a row for the Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated the Boston Celtics, 121-119, on Wednesday at Fiserv Forum as Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the starting lineup.

The win both evened the season series between the Bucks and Celtics at one apiece as well as ensuring Milwuakee's nine-game lead in the Central Division will remain in tact for at least another day. 

As the Thursday's NBA trade deadline nears, it's clear the Bucks fell comfortable with the way their roster has been built and recent wins over fellow contenders in the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and now the Celtics goes to how well things are working—especially since adding P.J. Tucker to the frontcourt earlier this month. 

The same can't be said for Boston. The Celtics have now lost five of their last six games and barely hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the East as general manager Danny Ainge has just a few hours remaining to address as many issues as he can through the trade market.


Notable Performers

Jaylen Brown, SG, Boston Celtics: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists

Kemba Walker, PG, Boston Celtics: 23 points, 6 assists, 3 steals

Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

Khris Middleton, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists

Bobby Portis, C, Milwaukee Bucks: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 three-pointers


Bucks Reserves Star In Giannis' Return

After knocking off the Indiana Pacers on Monday night without Antetokounmpo (knee sprain) available, Milwaukee proved it could beat the Celtics without him, too. 

That didn't stop the Greek Freak from returning to the floor, but it certainly gave him some cover to rediscover his rhythm as he works his way back from his injury. Antetokounmpo went 1-of-5 from the field in the first with just four points but recorded four rebounds and four assists. The back-to-back MVP was clearly letting the game come to him as he worked out the issues with his jump shot.

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

That is incredible. 💪 https://t.co/UCWk6Qzjfg

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

Khris is just getting started. He's up to 15 points 💰 https://t.co/VPbaL2tWGH

Instead reserve center Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez teamed up with Khris Middleton to keep Boston at arm's length for the vast majority of the night. 

Portis tied his season-high in points with 21 on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor as the size of Milwaukee was just too much for Boston to hold back. 

Despite the Celtics cutting what had been a 20-point lead to single digits with less than five minutes to play, the Bucks never once looked like they were losing their grip on the game—especially not with all five starters scoring at least 13 points. 

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

BULLY BALL. https://t.co/v28BfMl2qD

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

.@Giannis_An34 🤝 @Thanasis_ante43 https://t.co/dnNEvqWrG6

As Antetokounmpo works to get back to his typical level of scoring, the rest of the roster is more than capable of carrying the load and keeping the winning streak alive.


Celtics Slump Continues

The Celtics could've made this an easy night for Ainge with a win over a title contender like the Bucks. Now he might not get much sleep at all. 

With the NBA trade deadline set for Thursday afternoon, Ainge will have to find an opportunity to take advantage of as Boston continues to struggle heading into the home stretch of a playoff race. Where he's able to add help remains to be seen, but the Celtics appear from from title contenders as is. 

Boston Celtics @celtics

Rob was ready 🔨 https://t.co/reIy3EvDMj

That'll get even more difficult to prove after forward Semi Ojeleye left with a hip injury in the first half and was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game. 

It wasn't until the fourth quarter, after the Bucks had taken a 25-point lead, that Boston appeared to show any sense of urgency, out-scoring the Bucks 33-21 in the final frame with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker taking over late. 

Boston Celtics @celtics

BIG 3 to get back in it!!! https://t.co/mKMmrp9rw0

The Celtics even had a chance to take a lead with a minute left after Antetokounmpo was called for a charge, but Marcus Smart (2-of-10 from three) couldn't knock down an open shot behind the arc. Smart had another chance with just seconds left on the clock and a clear look at the rim, but the shot was immediately blocked by Brook Lopez. 

A final, last-second three-pointer from Daniel Theis had a chance to win it, but barely missed the rim. 

As the Bucks escaped with a win, Boston returns to its hotel awaiting to see if they'll have any new teammates when they take court at Fiserv Forum on Friday after the deadline passes.


What's Next

The Bucks and Celtics will wrap up their season series on Friday at Fiserv Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.