It’s a shame the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics are in the same conference since their Eastern Conference Semifinals series feels like an NBA Finals matchup right now!
These two teams have been going at it in every game of this series, with little separating them. Two games have now been decided in the last minute of play, with the Bucks winning both.
On Wednesday night, the Celtics visited the Bucks for Game 5 of their semifinal series, with the score tied at 2-2. Boston dominated the tempo of play throughout the first half and maintained it heading into the fourth quarter, leading by nine points.
With just over eight minutes remaining, it appeared as if Boston was ready to run away with the game, but Milwaukee hung on, hitting several big jumpers to give themselves a chance. Following a big offensive rebound and dunk by Al Horford with 2:12 left in the game, Giannis Antetokiunmpo hit a three-pointer, then Jrue Holiday nailed a three-pointer with 42.4 seconds left to tie the game.
The Celtics were up two points again when Jayson Tatum sank two free throws, and then Giannis Antetokounmpo was fouled, bringing him to the line for two free throws and a chance to tie the game. He hit the first free shot but missed the second.
Boston needed an offensive rebound to put the game away, but Bobby Portis retrieved the offensive rebound, placed the ball in the basket, and gave the Bucks the lead.
Jrue Holiday’s block of Marcus Smart’s shot with 8.1 seconds remaining was maybe the game’s and series’ turning point.
WHAT A BLOCK BY JRUE HOLIDAY.
AND HE EARNS THE POSSESSION 🤯
6.6 left on TNT pic.twitter.com/zombWL9ipA
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2022
The Bucks won Game 5 on the road, their second road victory in this series, and now lead the series 3-2, heading back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday.
This was an amazingly great game, and there is so much to discuss. Here are the three most important lessons from Milwaukee’s late Game 5 win in Boston.
Jrue Holiday Is Pretty Good At Playing Defense
There have been some great, massive blocks in NBA history. So many of these moments have resulted in a team winning a title, from LeBron James’ partnership with Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s block on Deandre Ayton in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Jrue Holiday’s block on Marcus Smart with 8.1 seconds remaining in Game 5 was a tremendous defensive play, but it may be a play that we look back on and say, “This is where the Bucks won their second consecutive title.”
Nothing is a given in this league, and the Celtics may still win this series because of its volatility, but this was a great play. Holiday backed it up with yet another spectacular defensive effort one possession later.
After saving the ball from Smart and Pat Connaughton hitting two free throws to put the Bucks up three, Jrue Holiday grabbed the ball right out of Marcus Smart’s hands to end the game, denying Boston a chance to force OT.
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2022
A three-time All-Defensive guard, Holiday reminded everyone on Wednesday that while Marcus Smart may have been this season’s Defensive Player of the Year, Holiday is still one of the finest defenders in the world.
Holiday’s defensive effort and ability to read his opponents are simply outstanding, and the two plays he made late in Game 5 were championship-caliber.
The Bucks are missing Khris Middleton right now, but Jrue Holiday is a huge reason they won the title last season and why they have a chance to repeat as champs this season.
Giannis Needs To Stop Shooting Threes
Milwaukee won Game 5 on the road in Boston in a spectacular manner. Still, one important bad component from this game jumped out, and that is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s continued shooting of three-pointers.
This is good throughout the regular season and offseason because if Antetokounmpo develops a consistent shot, it is “game over” for the rest of the NBA. Still, he has struggled from deep in the postseason.
This year, he is only shooting 17.6 percent from the three-point range in the playoffs, and in this series against the Celtics, Giannis is shooting only 4-21 (19 percent ) from deep, including going 2-5 from long in Game 5.
The Boston Celtics are an elite defensive club, and with Robert Williams III out due to knee pain, they are tiny on the interior. Giannis Antetokounmpo has found a tonne of success in this series, attacking the paint and getting to the hoop. He is averaging 33.6 points per game currently in this series after scoring 40 points on Wednesday.
His three-point shooting isn’t dropping, so he’s taking more of them, which plays right into the hands of the Celtics.
They want him to shoot threes because the Celtic know there is a minimal chance he will make them, and for some reason, Antetokounmpo continues to take long-range shots!
Boston has no means of stopping Giannis if he attacks the paint all the time, so forcing jump shots out of him is so beneficial to the Celtics.
Boston Must Keep Bobby Portis Off The Glass
Milwaukee finished +13 in rebounding in Game 5, and Bobby Portis had 15 total rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.
The enthusiasm Portis provides to the Bucks is unequaled by anybody else on the team, and his rebounding effort on Wednesday was a big reason they were able to pull off a late win.
Every rebound he grabbed was important, but none more so than his offensive rebound off Giannis Antetokounmpo’s missed free throw late in the game.
The Celtics’ ability to rebound is certainly hampered by the absence of Robert Williams III. Still, they must focus on keeping Bobby Portis off the boards in Game 6 since he is critical to the Bucks winning this series.
Giannis can only do so much, and with Brook Lopez not always around, the Celtics should be able to compete on the glass with or without Williams.
The Bucks will win this series in six games if Bobby Portis has another strong rebounding performance in Game 6. If the Celtics can contain him and limit Portis to under 8 rebounds, Boston will force a Game 7 if their shots fall.