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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Instant Classic: Bucks Come Back From 14 Point Deficit to Edge Celtics, 110-107

Milwaukee's 110-107 game five win at Boston had it all: big performances by each team's superstar, clutch plays by both teams, and a suspenseful, dramatic conclusion. The Celtics led for most of the game, were up 93-79 with 10:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, and were ahead 105-99 at the 2:12 mark after Al Horford's follow slam. The Bucks showed their championship poise by closing the game with an 11-2 run that included crucial free throws, big shots, and some sensational defensive plays. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 40 points on 16-27 field goal shooting, and he grabbed 11 rebounds, but he did not play a perfect game; he committed seven turnovers and he only shot 6-10 from the free throw line--but being a superstar is about impacting the outcome of the game, not about being perfect. Antetokounmpo made his presence felt at both ends of the court, and by the end of the game he was bloodied--play had to be halted twice late in the game so that the Bucks' medical staff could stop blood from pouring out of Antetokounmpo's face--but not bowed. Jrue Holiday continued to struggle with his shot (9-24 field goal shooting) but he made some of the game's biggest plays, and he finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, and a game-high eight assists. Bobby Portis shot just 4-14 from the field, but he chased down a game-high 15 rebounds, and his putback with 11.4 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winning basket. 

Jayson Tatum scored a team-high 34 points and he committed just one turnover in 42 minutes. He also had six rebounds and four assists. The only blemish was his poor three point shooting (2-11), which dragged down his overall field goal shooting (12-29). Jaylen Brown had an excellent all-around game (26 points on 9-19 field goal shooting, eight rebounds, six assists). Game four hero Al Horford made some key plays but he did not come close to replicating his 30 point performance, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds, and six assists. 

The tightly contested first quarter featured four lead changes, and ended with Milwaukee up, 28-26. The Celtics jumped out to a 51-38 lead late in the second quarter, but the Bucks rallied to cut the margin to 54-47 by halftime. Even though the Bucks trailed, they stayed true to their game plan of dominating the paint and forcing the Celtics to score from the three point arc; the Bucks won the first half rebounding battle 28-19, and they held the Celtics to 6-21 three point shooting (.286). The Bucks' main first half problems were too many turnovers (nine, compared to Boston's two), and poor field goal shooting (.396). In the second half, the Bucks shot much better (.477), committed just four turnovers (compared to Boston's eight), and outrebounded the Celtics 21-17. The Bucks' advantages in those categories enabled them to survive Boston's .538 second half field goal shooting.

The third quarter featured runs by both teams, but ended with the Celtics adding just two points to their halftime advantage to enter the fourth quarter up, 86-77. A quick 7-2 Boston burst early in the fourth quarter made it seem like this might be the Celtics' night, but the Bucks spent the rest of the final stanza chipping away until they pulled within two points, 101-99, on a Holiday jump shot with 4:09 remaining. However, Horford's spectacular tip dunk at the 2:12 mark put Boston up 105-99. Portis missed a long two point jumper, but Wes Matthews grabbed the rebound and passed to Antetokoumpo, who calmly drained a three pointer. The teams traded misses, and then Antetokounmpo got a steal that the Bucks converted into a Holiday three pointer that tied the game at 105-105. Portis fouled Tatum on a drive, and Tatum's two free throws with 31.4 seconds left gave Boston a 107-105 lead. Antetokounmpo countered with a drive, and he was fouled by Grant Williams. Antetokounmpo made the first free throw but he missed the second free throw. Portis corralled the miss and scored what turned out to be the game-winning layup--but the game was still far from over. Marcus Smart drove the baseline but was denied at the hoop on a spectacular block by Holiday, who then saved the possession by throwing the ball off of Smart. Pat Connaughton nailed two free throws after the Celtics committed a take foul, and then Holiday sealed the win by stealing the ball from Smart in the open court. 

The effort level and intensity displayed by both teams were outstanding, and epitomized what game five in a 2-2 series is supposed to look like and be about; game five is not supposed to be about the road team's stars disappearing and meekly submitting to a blowout loss. Remember when James Harden said that he wishes he could be seven feet tall and just dunk? That was a not so veiled reference to Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the point being that Harden believes that he has great basketball skills, in contrast to Antetokounmpo just being a big athlete who lacks great basketball skills. Since Harden made that remark, Antetokounmpo has led the Bucks to a championship and won a Finals MVP, while Harden continued his career-long pattern of disappearing in elimination games. To say that Harden's insult of Antetokounmpo did not age well would be the understatement of the century; Harden's delusional assessment of his basketball skills compared to Antetokounmpo's basketball skills is as off target as Harden's playoff shooting.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:17 PM



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