BOSTON — The buck needed to stop here. Instead, the Bucks roll back to Milwaukee in utter control of the series, and the Boston Celtics are on their last leg in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
A very poor night from the floor plagued the Celtics, who was not able to take advantage of their opponents’ foul trouble and dropped a pivotal Game 4 112-98 Monday night at TD Garden.
Giannis Antetokounmpo once again led the way for the Bucks, leading all players with 39 points. George Hill had 15, while Khris Middleton had 13.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 23 points but was just 7-for-22 shooting. Al Horford (20), Marcus Morris (18), Jayson Tatum (17) and Jaylen Brown (16) all scored in double digits.
The Bucks hold a 3-1 advantage in the series.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford
Neither team could build much a discernible lead in the opening minutes, but the Celtics were able to create some breathing room late, taking a 30-22 lead after one.
The opening minutes largely were back and forth, with the Celtics hitting six of their first hit attempts from the floor.
Smart, who entered with 6:16 left in the quarter to a huge ovation, started 0-for-2. But his 3-pointer with 2:43 to go in the quarter gave the Celtics a 25-17 lead.
The Celtics would lead by as much as 11 before Pat Connaughton hit trey at the buzzer.
NECK AND NECK
Boston could not build on its first-quarter advantage but did take a 49-47 lead into the break due mostly to a pedestrian half shooting the ball for both sides, each shooting under 40 percent over 24 minutes.
The Bucks scored eight unanswered over 2:30 with Antetokounmpo on the bench, knotting the game at 39.
With Antetokounmpo back on the floor, Middleton found a groove, pushing Milwaukee’s run to 16-4 with a trey to make 47-43 Bucks with 2:19 left in the half.
The C’s punched back, closing the half on a 6-0 run, kickstarted by a Morris corner three.
Irving, Brown and Morris each had 11 points to lead the hosts at halftime. Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 15, however, the Bucks were just 4-for-21 from beyond the arc.
CELTICS MISS OPPORTUNITY
Boston missed a tremendous chance to put distance between it and the Bucks when Antetokounmpo and Middleton both got into foul trouble in the third quarter and left the floor. Instead, the Celts were outscored 33-23 in the third and trailed 80-72 head into the final stanza.
Antetokounmpo picked up his fourth foul with 8:18 left in the third, sending him to the bench with the score knotted at 59. Middleton picked up his fourth a minute later. But Boston was outscored 13-9 over the next 4:43.
George Hill gave the Bucks a jolt with a 5-0 run to make it 72-68 on a three-pointer with 2:31 left in the quarter. The Bucks extended the run to 11-0 to lead 78-68 thanks to a Hill floater with 1:16 left in the quarter.
Boston made an early push in the fourth at a comeback, but ultimately came up well short, and now face elimination.
Things were getting dire for the C’s, down 91-79 with 9:05 remaining. But a 7-0 Boston run got the C’s and TD Garden back in the mix, trailing 91-86 with 7:25 to go. Milwaukee responded with a 6-0 run to make it 97-86.
The Bucks advantage grew to double digits in the final five minutes with a Hill lay-in making it 99-89 with 4:28 to play.
Milwaukee continued to charge forward, with the advantage growing as large as 13.
PLAY OF THE GAME
They call him “The Freak” for a reason.
The Celtics and Bucks will meet for Game 5 on Wednesday. Tip-off at Fiserv Forum is slated for 8 p.m. ET.