MILWAUKEE — Jrue Holiday matched a career-high with 40 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 131-125 overtime victory over an undermanned Boston Celtics team on Tuesday, extending Milwaukee’s winning streak. to 11 games.
The streak, the longest active one in the league, has brought the Bucks to within a half-game of Boston for the best record in the NBA. And yet, Antetokounmpo said he still isn’t enticed by the possibility of securing homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs with the No. 1 seed.
“We’re playing good basketball, that’s what I care about,” Antetokounmpo said after Tuesday’s game. “Now if we finish first, good. If we finish second, great. If we finish third, better. It doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, you’ve got to prepare your mind that in order for you to win a championship, you’ve got to play hard teams.
“You’ve got to go and earn it. Nobody is going to give you a championship. You’ve got to go and earn it. It’s not going to be easy.”
Nothing was easy for the Bucks on Tuesday night, despite the Celtics being without nearly all of their starting lineup: Jayson Tatum (illness), Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), Al Horford (knee) and Marcus Smart (ankle). Robert Williams III was limited to 13 minutes off the bench.
Their absences removed some of the luster from a matchup between the two teams with the best records, but the Celtics pushed the game into overtime thanks to the efforts of Derrick White, who scored 27 points, and Malcolm Brogdon, who added 26 off the bench. .
“Boston, whoever comes out, they’re going to execute, they’re going to play on both ends,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Our guys competed and found a way to win a game. The effort, the focus, the character, everything was what we expect from our guys.”
Boston and Milwaukee have faced each other in the playoffs three times in the past five seasons, including a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring, when the Celtics hosted and won Game 7. After holding onto the best record in the NBA for most of the season, the Celtics would like to put themselves in that position again.
“I think you definitely put a value on trying to get the No. 1 seed,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said.
Boston needs to hold off a surging Bucks squad for the rest of the season in order to hang onto the top spot.
Milwaukee’s 11-game winning streak began when Khris Middleton returned to the lineup, and although he is still coming off the bench while playing through a minutes limit — he added 16 points and 11 rebounds in about 25 minutes — the Bucks’ two All – Stars, Antetokounmpo and Holiday, were able to pick up the slack.
Holiday put up a career-best scoring night by going 13-of-21 from the field and hitting eight of his 12 3-point attempts, the most 3’s in a game in his career. He was 6-for-6 on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, and he scored against six primary defenders.
“I think he’s gotten to a good place with how aggressive we need him to be,” Budenholzer said about Holiday. “That’s one of the silver linings of Khris not being able to play early, not being able to play as many minutes as he’ll get up to. I think Jrue’s found a good place with his aggressiveness.”
Added Holiday: “I don’t know if it’s momentum or whatever it is inside of you, but offense fuels you, too. When you get hot, you’ve just got to keep shooting it and see what happens.”
Antetokounmpo has continued to drive the Bucks’ offense. He banged his knees with another player during the fourth quarter and remained on the court for several minutes, prompting Milwaukee to take a timeout, but afterwards he said he didn’t believe it was a big deal.
It’s a welcome sign for the Bucks, considering how dominant Antetokounmpo has been. He is averaging 37.2 points per game during the winning streak, the most by any player during a winning streak of that length in NBA history, according to Elias.
“Whatever we finish in the regular season, I personally don’t care,” Antetokounmpo said. “All I care about is building good habits, playing the best basketball we can play as a team, defending the best way and hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to win.”