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Antetokounmpo, Bucks defeat beat Celtics to force Game 7

By Genaro C. Armas

AP Sports Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks pulled away late to beat the Boston Celtics 97-86 on Thursday night to force a Game 7 in the first-round series.

Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon each added 16 points, with Brogdon hitting a momentum-swinging 3 from the left corner to give the Bucks a two-possession lead with 5:22 left. The Bucks held the Celtics at bay from there to force the winner-take-all game Saturday night in Boston.

The up-and-coming Bucks haven’t played a seventh game in the playoffs since losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in 2010.

Both teams went on extended runs to take big leads.

The Bucks made the last big push to close out the Celtics.

Boston had to settle for perimeter looks down the stretch. They couldn’t hit enough 3s, finishing 10 of 36 (28 percent) on the night, and the Bucks limited Boston on the glass.

On offense, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks’ charge right at the heart of the Celtics’ defense.

After Eric Bledsoe picked off Jayson Tatum’s inbounds pass, Antetokounmpo converted an offensive rebound with a putback off the glass for an 89-81 lead with 3:08 left. It was part of an 11-3 run late to help the Bucks pull away for 10-point advantage.

With his team facing elimination, Antetokounmpo vowed to be more aggressive following a five-point loss in Game 5.

The two-time All-Star produced in the crunch time, scoring 20 points in the second half on 8-of-14 shooting.

Tatum finished with 22 points, and Terry Rozier had 18 for the Celtics. After holding the edge on the glass for most of the series, Boston got outrebounded 48-39.

TIP INS

Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens stuck with the same starting five he used for Game 5, with Semi Ojeleye in for Aron Baynes for a quicker frontcourt on defense. … Former President Bill Clinton attended the game and exchanged handshakes with guard Marcus Smart. … Jaylen Brown added 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting.

Bucks: C John Henson (back) missed his fourth straight game, with Thon Maker getting his first start of the series over Tyler Zeller. Maker finished with four points and one block. … Held a 25-4 edge on transition points. … Jabari Parker had another strong game off the bench with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Tony Snell had 13 points.

UP NEXT

Game 7 is Saturday night at the TD Garden in Boston.

•••

NBA SAYS REFEREES MISSED LEBRON GOAL TENDING CALL IN GAME 5

CLEVELAND (AP) — The NBA said LeBron James’ block in the closing seconds of Game 5 on Indiana’s Victor Oladipo should have been called goaltending.

In the league’s Last Two Minute Report posted Thursday, the NBA said the three officials missed the call with 5.1 seconds left. The league said the video shows James blocked Oladipo’s shot “after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Under league rules, the play could not be reviewed because it wasn’t called on the floor. James then hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers a 98-95 win and a 3-2 lead in the series.

The Pacers did not contest the block while on the floor, but later in their locker room they complained about the no-call.

The NBA’s report also said the Pacers were incorrectly awarded the ball on a play with 27.6 seconds left. The ball went off Indiana’s Thaddeus Young and went out of bounds, but the referees gave the ball to Indiana.

•••

MASON PLUMLEE UNDERGOES SURGERY TO FIX CORE-MUSCLE INJURY

DENVER (AP) — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

___

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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