The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks tipped off the NBA stretch run Thursday with a thriller between the Eastern Conference powers.
The Bucks needed to fend off a late Celtics rally after leading by eight in the fourth quarter, but hung on for the 98-97 win when Kyrie Irving’s contested layup in the final seconds clanged off the rim.
Thrilling final minute in Milwaukee
After trailing 85-77 with six minutes remaining, the Celtics tied the game at 95-95 when Al Horford hit a 3-pointer at the 54-second mark.
Khris Middelton responded with a 3-pointer of his own on the other end with 32.5 seconds remaining to retake the lead.
The Celtics opted for a quick Irving layup that closed the gap to 98-97 with 27.5 seconds remaining. Boston played strong defense on the other end and got the ball back after Marcus Smart tied up Giannis Antetokounmpo as the shot clock wound down.
Antetokounmpo won the tip, but with 0.2 seconds on the shot clock, the Bucks had no chance of getting off a shot. But Boston couldn’t capitalize on the other end when Irving took the in-bounds pass at the top of the key.
Irving opts for contested layup with game on line
Rather than pass the ball to an open Horford on the perimeter, Irving drove through a crowded lane for the contested game-winning attempt that fell off the rim as time ran out.
Big block from Giannis
Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. He also came up with the play of the game on defense as the Celtics were rallying in the fourth quarter when he chased down what looked like an easy Jayson Tatum transition layup for a blocked shot at the rim.
Irving led the Celtics with 22 points and five assists, but may have passed up the best shot to win at the end when he overlooked a hot Horford, who tallied 21 points and 17 rebounds and had just hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game in the final minute.
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