Bucks put Celtics on the brink, display championship pedigree
BOSTON – What happened?
No, really-WHAT just happened?
The Bucks defeated the Celtics, 110-107 on Wednesday, to grab a 3-2 lead in the series.
And, seriously—how did it happen
“We beat ourselves,” said Boston guard Marcus Smart.
Coach Ime Udoka said, “We know we’re leaving with a golden opportunity tonight.”
Jaylen Brown added forward, “We give it a go.”
In a wild, unpredictable NBA playoffs — the Grizzlies beat the Warriors by how many? —This game could precede them all. Ten minutes into the game, Boston was over 14 and this game was over. Not that good for the Celtics game. Away from it. Jayson Tatum had 34 points … but needed 29 shots to get it. Brown has 26. Al Horford, the hero of Game 4, has eight. Daniel Theis, kicked out again with Robert Williams sidelined, is the only Celtics sub with a double number.
Milwaukee can’t hold a rally. And at least they wouldn’t have. No more firepower. At least they didn’t show up. How many times have we been reminded of how big Boston’s defense is? There is no way the Bucks can come back against it. With Khris Middleton sidelined, the last few games in this series are the (Giannis) Antetokounmpo show. He scored 42 points in the Game 3 win. He scored 34 in Game 4 losses. Early in Game 5, the Bucks tried to move the ball. Jrue Holiday had nine points. Grayson Allen has five. Bobby Portis tied four from the bench.
But when the Celtics ’defense tightened, Giannis took his place. He scored 15 points in the second quarter. The rest of the Bucks scored four. He added 13 in the third. In action, Antetokounmpo is unstoppable. He defeated the small defenders. He Euro-surrounded the larger ones. He pulled down 11 rebounds, he reached the free throw line 10 times and connected for nearly 60% of his shots.
But he had no help. In three quarters, only one Bucks player, Holiday, made double figures. He had 16 points, but he needed 16 throws to make it. Wesley Matthews contributed nothing. Brook Lopez is a no -brainer. Boston beat Milwaukee in the fourth quarter of the last two games and has No. 1 NBA defense to close it out.
They are the only ones left. A Pat Connaughton three with eight minutes left cut the lead to a digit. A pair of free throws by Bobby Portis made it six. With less than a minute of play Holiday hit a three that tied it. The Bucks trailed by two when Antetokounmpo went to the free throw line with 14 seconds left. He did the first. He missed the second but Portis, back in rotation after just 15 minutes into Game 4, pulled the rebound and bounced back.
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Boston still has a chance. Exit a timeout Smart exits free at baseline. He lined up a short runner. And then Holiday, perhaps the best defender on the NBA perimeter not named Smart, came in for the block. “That’s what Jrue did,” Antetokounmpo said. Connaughton’s two free throws stretched the lead to three. A Holiday steal by Smart in the final seconds ended the game.
“Credit Milwaukee,” Brown said. “They played hard for 48 minutes. We were late for what we did well. We weren’t as purposeful at first and it cost us. ”
The DNA of the championship is a phrase thrown away by sports. also luag. The Bucks just showed it. They would have doubled in the fourth quarter. They laughed. Middleton’s absence forced Antetokounmpo to a steady diet of isolations and pushed Holiday into the second scorer position that he was never comfortable with.
But they did not fold. The Bucks surrendered nine points in the final eight minutes. Antetokounmpo, who struggled with his three-point shot in all series, fell big. Mathews did too. Portis made four free throws in his final eight minutes. Even if the offense is sputtering, the Bucks have never lost confidence in each other.
“We are always disciplined,” Antetokounmpo said. “We always give everything we have… we usually do the right thing. Sometimes it doesn’t happen our way. I think everyone has confidence in each other that we will make the right game. That we will make the extra pass. That we are always there no matter what the outcome. I feel like this group, whatever the outcome, we can go back and feel good about ourselves. When we watch a movie, it’s not about ‘you have to put in more effort’ or ‘you have to keep a close eye on this person.’ The effort from us, from this team, most of the time is always there.
The series returns to Milwaukee on Friday and the Game 6 numbers are just as tight. These are the two elite defenses. It’s the Bad Boy’s Pistons against the mid-90’s Knicks. Pernell Whitaker vs. Floyd Mayweather. The Steel Curtain against Monsters of the Midway. Every possession between these two teams is a street fight. At one point, late in the fourth quarter, Giannis took a shot to the side of the eye that drew blood.
But the Bucks pushed the Celtics to the edge. Boston has shown great determination this season, adapting to a new coach, overcoming a terrible start, battling COVID-related injuries and illnesses. They need to show more of it to beat Milwaukee on its home floor.
The Bucks played like champions on Wednesday.
On Friday, we’ll see if the Celtics can do the same.
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