MILWAUKEE — Derrick White put his hands over his ears as Fiserv Forum voiced its displeasure over an overtime foul call on Jevon Carter. Mike Budenholzer lost his challenge four periods earlier and Malcolm Brogdon prepared to retake the lead at the free throw line.
Jared Greenberg later revealed White suffered a left ear injury and stayed behind in an encouraging effort that also reflected how damaged Boston’s roster nears the all-star break.
Jrue Holiday took eight seconds to turn their boos and twirling fingers into raucous cheers with a game-winning three. He scored 40 points and recorded three steals, pulling the game from the Celtics late as his fourth. Milwaukee beat a undermanned Celtics team, 131-125, after Sam Hauser drained a last-second three to force overtime. White — the east’s player of the week — poured in 27 points and 12 assists, leading six Celtics, including Hauser, to double-figure scoring.
“I doubt I take 24 shots with everybody back, but just the same mindset, aggressive,” White, averaging 25 points over the last five games, said. “It might not be 24, but still do other things out there to win. Obviously, confidence-wise, it helps that way, but I put a lot of work in during the season and the offseason and these are the things we work for during those times.”
It wasn’t enough against familiar rivals with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford sitting. The Bucks also placed their own case to improve next time they meet in March on the jumbo-tron midway through the game. Jae Crowder drew applause as he works back from sitting out the start of the season. Other than he and Bobby Portis, the Bucks played the game fully healthy.
Mike Muscala scored 10 points in five minutes to secure a 20-12 lead for the Celtics, who started the game big with Grant Williams, Blake Griffin and sat Robert Williams III, a decision Joe Mazzulla would not clarify post-game. Williams III finished with 13 minutes.
Boston shot 52% in the first quarter, led by another White passing showcase after he earned player of the week honors with back-to-back 10 assist games. He reached seven early in the second quarter with a feed to Griffin for three that maintained 52-46 Celtics lead.
The Bucks rallied behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rim runs and Khris Middleton bench rotations though, and Williams III totaled under five minutes in the first half, exiting early in the second after three possessions and sitting for the rest of the second quarter. Middleton and Holiday lead a go-ahead run midway through the quarter, then closed 13-3 into halftime while holding the Celtics to 0-for-8 shooting.
White led Boston back to start the third by finding Muscala and Griffin cutting downhill, Muscala dunking and staring down Antetokounmpo to earn a technical foul. He and Griffin hit threes to cushion their new lead, followed by a breakout Sam Hauser reverse layup and Brogdon pull-up three that ballooned the lead to 12.
They reached a game-high 14 point lead on a pair of Brogdon free throws, but Williams III returned and struggled to take advantage of a pair of post mismatches. Holiday and Joe Ingles hit threes, then Holiday buried a half court heave at the buzzer to cut the Bucks’ deficit to 95-90 in three minutes.
Middleton terrorized Payton Pritchard in transition and led a 7-0 run to reach +19 and push Milwaukee ahead, 97-95, into the fourth. Grant split a pair of defenders to dunk and White scored twice in transition after Carter heaves to pull the Celtics back into the game quickly.
Hauser retook the lead with a transition three, then Middleton hit a put back and Holiday hit a three in transition to go up 108-107. Holiday reached 31 points with another three and pushed Boston behind by six points with 3:51 remaining. The Bucks didn’t hit another shot in regulation.
The Celtics came back starting with a Hauser put back following his own missed three and Giannis’ block on Grant’s follow try. He pumped his fist and the Celtics stopped Holiday at the rim, but White lost the ball in transition as Ingles dove on the ball, who won the jump ball. Antetokounmpo ran past half court into White. One more chance for Boston with two minutes left.
White hit a pair of free throws and Giannis missed one. Antetokounmpo had fallen to the floor moments earlier in pain after traveling inside, but returned to his feet and missed another look inside that allowed Brogdon to take an open dunk and cut the lead to one. Holiday hit his free throws and Hauser ran to the top of the arc, fired and sent the game to overtime.
“Spur of the moment type thing,” Hauser said. “The ball got to my hands, just tried to get to a spot where I felt comfortable and obviously it went in, and it forced overtime. It sucks that we lost, but it was good to play like that in front of a lot of friends and family ... I just tried to find a little bit of space just to get a shot up and get it on the rim.”
White scored five straight points to start the extra period before Holiday and Antetokounmpo cut their lead to one possession at the free throw line. Holiday stole the ball from White and ran full court for a slam and Muscala air balled from the left wing, setting up Grayson Allen for a pair of go-ahead free throws in the other other direction.
“Their fourth quarter pace,” Mazzulla warned pre-game. “They continue to play fast and continue to put pressure on your defense in transition. Giannis’ free throw attempts in the fourth quarter are relatively high and so, it puts a ton of pressure on you throughout the game. In the fourth quarter, it’s transition defense, it’s offensive rebounding and then you need to be able to guard the other guys. He’s done a great job ... of getting to the free throw line.”
Holiday hit a go-ahead three to reach 40 points on the break and the Bucks turned up the pressure toward half court, forcing White to dump off to Grant in the left corner, who gave the ball up to Allen. Mazzulla revealed he should’ve called timeout as he rushed down the arena’s hallway toward the buses.
Grant and White called on themselves to execute better in that moment and took the blame away from their head coach. They agreed both players needed to shoot when they received the ball. That proved difficult for Williams due to an elbow injury he only hinted at post-game. Another ailment for a team struggling to reach the break intact and possibly needing to play Tatum tomorrow after he stayed home from the trip.
“It’s something that, I guess you could say,” Williams said. “Bending the arm stuff, but I still gotta shoot it ... I’ve always told myself I can play through everything. It’s not an excuse ... I felt pretty good ... hopefully this all-star break, I’ll let it settle down and just trust that it’ll work out. Last two games, I think it happened the game before and next thing you know, that’s why I have the sleeve and brace on. You’ve just got to play through that.”