MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols to score 36 points on Saturday, but Wesley Matthews stole the spotlight when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 30.3 seconds left to give the Milwaukee Bucks their first lead en route to a 117-113 win over the Boston Celtics.
Seeing his first action since Dec. 12, Antetokounmpo played 30 minutes and connected on 13 of 23 shots while shooting 10 for 15 from the free-throw line. Milwaukee also got center Bobby Portis and guard Donte DiVincenzo back from COVID-19 protocols in time for the televised Christmas showdown.
Boston had just eight players available after putting Dennis Schroder in the protocols earlier Saturday, but took control behind Jaylen Brown, who scored 14 of his 25 points in the opening quarter. Jayson Tatum also scored 25 for Boston, which led by as many as 19 and went into halftime with a 35-22 advantage.
Milwaukee trimmed the deficit to one when Middleton knocked down a 3 with 3:39 left in the third. But the Celtics answered with five straight and opened the fourth with a 8-0 run, including six from Parker, who converted a three-point play to make it 102-90 with 10:15 to play.
Portis’ put-back with 8 minutes left was the start of the Bucks’ charge, tying the game at 111 when Antetokounmpo scored and drew a foul with 1:26 left. He missed the free throw and Brown made a pair on the other end to put Boston back in front.
But Matthews buried his 3 for a 114-113 lead, and the Bucks held on.
Portis finished with 16 points, while DiVincenzo, who hadn’t played since suffering a left foot injury in the playoffs last season, got his first and only points on a 3-pointer late in the third quarter.
To help fill out their depleted roster, the Celtics signed Al-Farouq Aminu and Norvel Pelle to 10-day contracts Saturday morning. … The Bucks are 5-3 all-time on Christmas Day, including a 3-0 mark in Milwaukee. The Celtics fell to 15-20 all-time in Christmas Day games.
Celtics: At Minnesota on Monday.
Bucks: At Orlando on Tuesday.