DimeMag

The Bucks Stunned The Celtics In Game 5 To Move A Game Away From The Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics entered Game 5 of their series with the Milwaukee Bucks with the positive momentum after a dominant fourth quarter performance in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2 and reclaim homecourt advantage.

A career-night from Al Horford fueled that effort, but heading into a pivotal Game 5 it was incumbent on their star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to lead them to their first lead of the series. The two teams traded blows in the first quarter, with the Bucks holding a two-point edge, but the first haymaker of the game came from Tatum and the Celtics, as they let their tremendous defense fuel a 24-8 run that put them in the driver’s seat, up 13 late in the quarter.

The Bucks would respond in the closing minutes, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo who returned to the floor and willed Milwaukee back into the game, cutting the deficit to just seven at the break.

Milwaukee would get that lead to as few as one in the mid-third quarter, but then it was Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart’s turn to take over, with Brown scoring 16 in the quarter to help Boston extend their lead to nine going into the fourth.

The start of the fourth saw more of the same, with the Celtics swarming the Bucks with their activity on defense, sparking their offense with the type of transition opportunities Milwaukee had feasted on in the first four games of the series, and then Tatum finding his way downhill to the rim to inflict some damage in the halfcourt.

The Bucks would not fade away completely, though, as Pat Connaughton gave them a much-needed lift off the bench with a couple important threes to keep them within range of a possible comeback.

With six minutes to go, Wes Matthews connected on a corner three off a Jrue Holiday assist to cut the Boston lead to four, the fewest since the mid-third quarter and suddenly the Bucks had life (and an offense that was starting to percolate).

Holiday, who continued to have shooting struggles early in the game, hit an extremely difficult pull-up long two to cut the lead to two.

After a Jayson Tatum bucket to push the lead back to four, Giannis got hit with an offensive foul after plowing into Marcus Smart trying to set a screen, giving the ball back to Boston, who got an early exclamation point on a massive putback dunk from Al Horford.

That felt like it might be the dagger in the moment, but the Bucks weren’t done yet, once again showing their championship mettle. First, it was Giannis who stepped into a three-pointer off an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to three, and then after two stops (and Bobby Portis fumbling a wide open layup), it was Holiday who drilled a game-tying three with under a minute to play.

Tatum would go to the rack on the Celtics next possession and get fouled by Portis on the arm, sending him to the line for a pair of free throws with 31.1 seconds to play. After hitting both, it was Giannis’ turn to get fouled twice, both times by Grant Williams, with the second sending him to the line for two shots to tie the game. After hitting the first, his second bounced off the rim and, somehow, ended up in the hands of Portis who managed to bank it home to put Milwaukee up by one with 11.4 seconds to play.

The Celtics advanced the ball and got Marcus Smart the ball with a driving lane on the baseline to the hoop, but Jrue Holiday rotated over and swallowed up his shot attempt with an unreal block and steal, then had the presence to throw it off of Smart to retain possession.

After advancing the ball, Milwaukee was able to just get the ball in to Pat Connaughton, who would hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to three. Boston, out of timeouts, had to take the ball all the way up the court and once again Holiday took Smart’s cookies, ending the game in style and moving the Bucks a game away from the conference finals once again.

It was an unbelievable fourth quarter, with the Bucks starring in the role the Celtics played in Game 4, snatching what looked like a surefire win from the home team and setting up a closeout opportunity back home in Milwaukee. Giannis was nothing short of sensational with 40 points and 11 rebounds, but it was the “others” that stepped up to help get the Bucks across the finish line. Holiday had 24 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds, and while he still needed 24 shots to get there, he hit the big time shots late and was instrumental in setting up some of the three-pointers that fueled the initial fourth quarter push. Connaughton’s 13 points and Portis’ 14 points off the bench were just enough support that they now are a game away from sending Boston on vacation.

For the Celtics, it’s a brutal loss in a game they had control of for the vast majority of time. Tatum and Brown combined for 60 points, but this time it was the Bucks that were able to turn up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter to take away open shots and make life extremely difficult in the closing minutes. Tatum was great when he got downhill, but struggled from the perimeter, going 2-of-11 from three as he was largely ineffective when Milwaukee cut off his driving lanes. Oddly enough, it was the home team that struggled to knock down shots from deep and get contributions from their “others” in key moments, as Boston shot just 32.3 percent from deep as a team and could only muster 21 fourth quarter points as the Bucks steadily chipped away at their lead.

Now, the series shifts back to Milwaukee where it figures to once again be a coinflip game that comes down to which team executes best in the fourth quarter. On Wednesday night that title belonged to the Bucks and they inch ever closer to a title defense.

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