Grant Williams And The Celtics Buried The Bucks With A Historic Game 7 Shooting Performance

The first of two Game 7s in the NBA conference semifinals arrived on Sunday afternoon in Boston as the Celtics played host to the Bucks in what has been the most consistently competitive series of the postseason. Each team has won on the road, in thrilling comeback fashion, and the two leading stars have been nothing short of spectacular, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum have traded 40-point games and huge individual performances throughout the series.

Game 7 started with the Bucks taking the first swing, jumping out to an early lead as Giannis Antetounmpo did a bit of everything, scoring or assisting on 24 of Milwaukee’s 26 points, and piling up 10 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in the first 10 minutes of the game. Aiding Giannis was Brook Lopez, who was the beneficiary of a number of those assists, as the Bucks’ big man finally seemed to be asserting himself in a series where his size is an advantage Milwaukee has not exploited fully.

However, the Celtics had the answer on the other end in the form of Jayson Tatum, who matched Giannis with 17 first half points and led Boston on a second quarter charge that saw them swipe the lead away from the Bucks.

Aiding in the Celtics run to close the half was Grant Williams, who started off ice cold but connected on three triples in the first half to provide a lift, as Milwaukee clearly made their gameplan to let him shoot and try to force someone else to beat them. Along with Williams, Marcus Smart chipped in with some very Marcus Smart play, orchestrating the offense when needed and provided his usual defensive effort (and grifting) to put the finishing touches on the half by somehow getting three shots off of a foul by Giannis on the Bucks side of the court.

It was Boston that came out of the halftime break firing from three, with Williams, Tatum, and Jaylen Brown all burying triples to push the Boston lead to double-digits with haste.

The Bucks would limit the damage briefly with a couple buckets at the rim, but they were bringing a knife to a gun fight as Boston continued to pour in threes — as Grant Williams hit his fifth and sixth triples of the night — while Milwaukee missed, at one point, 13 consecutive threes before a Bobby Portis make finally broke the streak.

The fourth quarter started as the third ended, with Giannis missing two more point blank shots (after missing two in the third) and Grant Williams poured in his seventh three-pointer to push the lead back out to 16.

After another empty possession for the Bucks, it was Payton Pritchard’s turn to bury a three and push the Boston lead to 19 with 9:35 to play as it became apparent there would not be another Game 5-like run in Milwaukee — followed by two more Pritchard threes that served as the daggers in what became a 109-81 Boston win.

The story of this game, and the series overall, was the ability of the Celtics’ “others” to step up and supplement what the stars were doing in a way Milwaukee simply couldn’t as players were thrust into expanded roles in Khris Middleton’s absence. Boston got wins on the backs of huge shooting nights from Al Horford (Game 4) and Grant Williams (Game 7), while every Bucks win was almost entirely reliant on Giannis and Jrue Holiday to do everything. In a series where Holiday struggled with his efficiency, they just didn’t get enough shooting to keep up with Boston’s ability to pour in threes, and that proved to be the difference in Game 7.

Grant Williams finished 7-of-18 from three, outshooting the Bucks entire team from beyond the arc, while Payton Pritchard chipped in a 4-of-6 night from distance off the bench. Overall, the three-point shooting numbers painted the picture of the game, as Boston shot 22-of-55 from deep while the Bucks were an almost impossibly bad 4-of-33. Boston’s commitment to running their offense and trusting everyone on the team was rather incredible, as Milwaukee dared the “others” to beat them. For a quarter it looked like that would work, but to Tatum, Brown, and coach Ime Udoka’s credit, they didn’t alter the gameplan or panic after a rough start, and kept creating those same open looks that eventually started falling and created the avalanche the swept Milwaukee away.

Boston now heads off to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will try to get over the hump and into the NBA Finals for the first time in over a decade, taking on the Miami Heat in what should be another heavyweight fight between two teams that play physical defense — and once again three-point shooting variance figures to play heavily into who advances to the Finals.

For Milwaukee, it’s the end of their title defense and they’ll have some serious roster considerations to make going into next year. Grayson Allen was dreadful all series offensively and got targeted on the defensive end, so his place as their sixth man has to be in question (even if they locked him in to an extension this season). Trading Donte DiVincenzo for Serge Ibaka looks like a poor choice in hindsight, and finding more wing help will be paramount as their lack of perimeter shooting and creation (obviously hampered by Middleton’s absence) was on full display in this series. Still, with Middleton this is a contender, but there are certainly some moves on the horizon to try and keep this title window as open as possible, as the East has become as strong as ever at the top.