Bucks Celtics Basketball

Celtics' Jayson Tatum goes to the basket against Bucks' Khris Middleton during the second quarter Monday night.

BOSTON — The Milwaukee Bucks arrived in Boston still trying to recover from a four-game trip to the West Coast.

Coach Jason Kidd had no problem with his team’s effort. The execution was another matter.

Kyrie Irving scored 19 of his 32 points in the second half, helping offset a 40-point night by Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Celtics held off the Bucks 111-100 on Monday night.

Al Horford added 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Jayson Tatum chipped in 17 points to help Boston improve to an NBA-best 21-4. The Celtics have won five of their past six.

“We walked through exactly what they were going to do, we just couldn’t get our legs moving fast enough there in that first half,” Kidd said. “In the second half, we did a better job understanding what we talked about game plan-wise. They’re going to shoot a lot of threes. We did a better job in that second half; in the first half we were awful.

“With the way the schedule has been, the guys fought. It’s tough to win here, but they gave themselves ... an opportunity and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

The Celtics shot 50 percent or better from the field for the fifth straight game — their longest such streak since 2010.

“I feel like we’re starting to find our rhythm as a group, and I’m finding my rhythm, too,” Horford said.

It was the third 40-point game this season for Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton added 19 points while Eric Bledsoe finished with 18 points.

“You have to compete against them because they don’t stop playing hard,” Antetokounmpo said. “From start to finish they play hard and play together.”

Kidd was called for technical after jawing with an official at 4:44 in second quarter. It ignited an 8-0 Celtics run that pushed Boston's lead to 56-37. Irving had five points during the run.

Boston led by as many as 20 in the third quarter, before the Bucks stormed back, thanks in large part to Antetokounmpo. He almost singlehandedly kept the Bucks in it, scoring 16 points in the period and trimming Boston’s lead to 88-81 entering the fourth.

It was 104-97 following a free throw by Bledsoe, but the Celtics got five straight points from Irving to get the lead back up to 12 with less than a minute left.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton entered Monday as the most productive scoring duo in the Eastern Conference, averaging a combined 49 points per game.

They combined for 59 Monday. It offset some early inconsistency from the rest of their teammates, who went just 6 of 24 from the field in the first half.

Kidd was called for a technical after jawing with an official at 4:44 in second quarter. It ignited an 8-0 Celtics run that pushed Boston’s lead to 56-37.

“We were either over-rotating or not rotating enough,” Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “The big would either get the shot or he would skip it when we over-rotated and the guard would get the shot on the opposite side.”

The Celtics improved to 16-2 when scoring 100 or more points, and are now 11-2 at TD Garden this season, the most home victories in the NBA.

The Bucks haven’t been held under 100 points since a 99-88 loss to Washington on Nov. 20 — a span of six games.

Kidd was impressed with Boston rookie Tatum: "I think his mannerisms are just one that you can't see if he's rattled or not. His composure is at a very high level to only be 19."

NOTES: Milwaukee begins a three-game homestand Wednesday against Detroit.


Milwaukee 26 23 32 19 — 100

Boston 34 28 26 23 — 111

MILWAUKEE — Middleton 6-11 6-6 19, Antetokounmpo 14-24 12-14 40, Henson 0-6 0-0 0, Bledsoe 6-9 3-4 18, Snell 4-8 0-0 11, Maker 0-4 0-0 0, Terry 1-2 0-0 2, Brogdon 4-13 0-0 10, Liggins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 35-78 21-24 100.

BOSTON — Tatum 5-6 3-4 17, Horford 8-10 3-4 20, Baynes 3-6 4-4 10, Irving 13-24 4-5 32, J.Brown 4-9 0-0 8, Ojeleye 0-0 0-0 0, Morris 1-6 0-0 3, Theis 3-4 0-0 6, Rozier 3-5 0-0 7, Smart 3-8 1-2 8. Totals 43-78 15-19 111.

3-point goals — M 9-21 (Snell 3-4, Bledsoe 3-6, Brogdon 2-6, Middleton 1-3, Antetokounmpo 0-1, Terry 0-1), B 10-22 (Tatum 4-5, Irving 2-4, Rozier 1-2, Horford 1-2, Smart 1-3, Morris 1-3, Theis 0-1, J.Brown 0-2). Rebounds — M 28 (Antetokounmpo 9), B 45 (Horford 9). Assists — M 17 (Middleton 5), B 25 (Horford 8). Total fouls — M 17, B 20. Technicals — M coach Kidd, Smart. Att. — 18,624.

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