NBA: Boston Celtics knocked off Eastern Conference perch after Milwaukee Bucks dig in

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) makes a pass under Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson in the first half of the match on March 29, 2017.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) makes a pass under Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson in the first half of the match on March 29, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

New York (AFP) - Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 22 points as the Milwaukee Bucks knocked the Boston Celtics off the top of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference with a battling 103-100 victory on Wednesday.

Milwaukee, embroiled in a neck-and-neck battle with the Atlanta Hawks for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, claimed their 13th win in 16 games as Boston's six-game winning streak at home came to an end.

The defeat saw Boston, who had inched clear of Cleveland after the Cavaliers lost 74-103 to San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, fall behind once more on percentage points.

Cleveland now lead the conference with a 47-26 record while Boston slipped to 48-27.

Milwaukee were almost made to pay after blowing an eight-point fourth quarter lead.

But Celtics' Marcus Smart missed a late heave on the buzzer as the Bucks held on.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks scoring with 22 points and also had nine rebounds, while Khris Middleton had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Greg Monroe and Malcolm Brogdon both had 16 points apiece. Isaiah Thomas top scored with 32 points for Boston and also set a new Celtics season record for three-pointers, breaking former Celtics forward Antoine Walker's previous mark of 222.

Four other Celtics, including Jae Crowder (13) and Avery Bradley (12) posted double figures.

Thomas tied Walker's record with a three-pointer bomb in the third quarter and then broke it with another three with 4min 13sec left, his 223rd three-pointer of the season.