BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics knew they would be playing at TD Garden Saturday night, either against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the first round or the Philadelphia 76ers in the opener of Round 2.
Well, the Bucks maintained the home-court advantage that has held up throughout this series and defeated the Celtics in Milwaukee Thursday night, setting up Game 7 in Boston Saturday.
“We work hard all season to put ourselves in a position for home court, so we have a great opportunity on Saturday,” Al Horford said after the Bucks pulled out a 97-86 win Thursday night that kept the Bucks’ season alive.
“Game 7 at TD Garden is what you play for,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens, whose team won a seventh game against the Washington Wizards in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bucks, the seventh seed trying to upset No. 2, have lost eight straight series since winning two in 2001 and are 0-17 all-time when trailing a series 0-2. The Celtics are 35-0 when leading a series 2-0 and, of course, have all those banners hanging in the rafters.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, slowed by the Celtics in Game 5, scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Thursday’s win that kept Milwaukee’s hopes of playing more games at the Bradley Center before the team moves to a new building next door.
“We’re a team that has shown a lot of resiliency all year,” interim coach Joe Prunty said. “We’ve had a game this year, twice, where we’ve been down 20 and found a way to come back and win both times. We continue to battle. We fight.”
The Bucks have won three of the last four games to stay in this series. They did split a pair of regular season games in Boston before going 0-3 there in the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 26.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game in the series, blamed himself for the Game 5 loss in Boston and felt the need to take over in Game 6. He wasn’t a one-man wrecking crew but seemed to score every time it was needed.
“I thought he played great,” said Prunty. “I don’t think he forced anything. I think he took opportunities that were there for him. He knows the spots to get to, but we also have to give him spacing around him to make sure we are in the right spots so that he has room to operate. … Overall, Giannis played an outstanding game. One of his best plays was the offensive rebound where he pretty much just jumped up, put his arms up, made a play that very few people in this league can make.”
Said teammate Thon Maker: “He showed that (takeover ability) tonight. He proved to himself he’s comfortable where he’s at. He’s humble, he knows what he’s capable of. He said it this morning that he’s going to take shots he’s comfortable with, not shots he don’t work on.”
Boston’s Marcus Morris, who took a knee to the thigh in Game 6, was asked if he thought the injury was serious. “Even if it was, you’d have to cut my leg off for me not to play (Saturday),” he said.