Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, Khris Middleton hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks held off the Boston Celtics 98-97 on Thursday night.

On the second-to-last position, Marcus Smart forced a jump ball with Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo tipped the jump to Brook Lopez, who deflected it toward the basket, but missed as the shot clock expired.

The referees huddled during the timeout and put 3.5 seconds on the clock for the Celtics.

Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton, right, reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton, right, reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Smart inbounded the ball over the towering Lopez and dropped a pass into Kyrie Irving’s hands at the top of the key. With Eric Bledsoe draped all over him, Irving drove the lane, seemed to stumble and missed an awkward shot as time expired. The Bucks won the season series 2-1, their first over the Celtics since 2014-15.

For Antetokounmpo and Irving, who had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth, it was a rematch since squaring off Sunday at the All-Star Game. Antetokounmpo captained Team Giannis, while Irving started for Team LeBron.

Irving, who has battled a variety of injuries this season, used the All-Star Game to get ready for his return to action. He had missed the two previous games with a strained right knee and 11 overall.

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Nikola Mirotic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks’ Nikola Mirotic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Antetokounmpo added 13 rebounds, Middleton had 15 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 points for the Bucks. They have won 15 of the last 17 games, including nine of the last 10, to improve to 44-14.

Horford added 21 points and a season-high 17 rebounds for Boston, and Jayson Tatum had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

TIP-INS

Milwaukee Bucks' Malcolm Brogdon looks to shoot against Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon looks to shoot against Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Celtics: F Gordon Hayward did not play after spraining his right ankle during a workout on Tuesday. … F/C Aron Baynes (left foot contusion) is sitting out the three-game trip.

Bucks: Mirotic made his Bucks’ debut at forward with three minutes left in the first quarter. He missed his first four games with a calf injury. … G Donte DiVincenzo (bilateral heel bursitis) did not play.

UP NEXT:

Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton drives to the basket against Boston Celtics' Daniel Theis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton drives to the basket against Boston Celtics’ Daniel Theis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Celtics: At Chicago on Saturday night.

Bucks: Host Minnesota on Saturday night.

___

Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving (11) forces a jump ball against Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving (11) forces a jump ball against Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

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