BOSTON -- In the NBA, it's hard to dig out of a 20-point hole. When you're playing the Boston Celtics, the team with the best record in the league, the odds are especially bad.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, that type of comeback proved too impossible on Monday night in a 111-100 loss at TD Garden. The defeat snapped Milwaukee's three-game winning streak while the Celtics three consecutive wins of their own.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 40 points on 14 of 24 shooting while making 12 of 14 free throws, but his herculean effort on Greek heritage night in Boston wasn't enough to make up for Milwaukee's overall deficiencies.
The Bucks, who had seemed to turn a corner defensively over their win streak, struggled to contain the Celtics from the onset. Their aggressive, trapping defense and habit of over helping returned, leading to numerous good looks from the Celtics early on, including four 3-pointers from rookie Jayson Tatum in the first quarter.
Facing the league's top defense, Milwaukee's best offense in the opening stanza was getting to the free-throw line, taking advantage of eight Boston fouls to go 12 of 12.
Boston opened the second quarter with all five starters on the bench, opening the door for Milwaukee to make a move. Instead, the Bucks slipped further behind, trailing by 13 by the time the Celtics brought a starter back on the court.
Outside of Malcolm Brogdon, who had 10 points in 32 minutes, the Bucks got virtually no output from their bench. Thon Maker went 0 of 4 in eight minutes, DeAndre Liggins didn't add anything on offense and Jason Terry, who exited in the fourth quarter with a left calf strain, had two points in 13 minutes.
Add John Henson going 0 of 6 and grabbing just three rebounds in 21 minutes, and the Bucks didn't get much of anything from virtually half of their team.
After a 7-0 Celtics run to start the third quarter, head coach Jason Kidd opted to go with a center-less lineup for the rest of the game. That choice -- combined with keeping Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell on the court for the entire third quarter -- cut the margin to just seven points heading into the fourth quarter.
But after all the battling to just make the game competitive again, the Bucks didn't have enough left to cut the deficit any lower. Midway through the fourth, Brogdon missed an open 3-pointer that would have brought the Bucks within five. Following that misfire, Celtics center Al Horford, who had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, threw down a put-back dunk followed by a pair of alley-oops to push Boston back ahead by 12 and essentially put the game away.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 32 points in the win while Middleton had 19 point and Bledsoe chipped in 18 in the loss.
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