Bucks vs. Celtics score, takeaways: Milwaukee pulls off fourth quarter comeback to steal Game 5 against Boston
The Milwaukee Bucks are one win away from a berth in the Eastern Conference finals after pulling off a fourth-quarter comeback against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series on Wednesday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo was fantastic for Milwaukee all night long finishing the win with a game-high 40 points to go along with 11 rebounds and three assists while Jrue Holiday made a number of clutch plays on both ends of the floor down the stretch on his way to a 24-point, eight-rebound and eight-assist performance.
With the win, Milwaukee has an opportunity to close out Boston at Fiserv Forum on Friday night in Game 6 as they look to defend their NBA championship from this past season.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Bucks’ complete miracle comeback
The Bucks should have lost on Wednesday night, and 99 times out of 100 they would have considering the circumstances. Instead, they turned around a 14-point deficit thanks to some big-time shot making, a dominant performance on the offensive glass and a little bit of luck.
Early in the frame, as the Celtics were threatening to pull away, the Bucks knocked down three 3-pointers in a two-minute span to stay attached. Miss those and we’re potentially talking about a 20-point Celtics win. Instead, the Bucks were able to hang around. Later on, Giannis Antetokounpo and Jrue Holiday hit back-to-back 3s in the final minutes to tie the game at 105-105. All told, the Bucks went a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown in the fourth quarter. For a team that has struggled to shoot the ball all series, that was a perfect time to find their shooting stroke.
Giannis’ massive triple late in the fourth came from an offensive rebound, which was another key to the comeback. The Celtics’ elite defense has stifled the Bucks all series, and was doing so once again in the fourth quarter — at least on the initial shot. But the Bucks were able to crash the glass and create extra possessions. Eight of the Bucks’ whopping 17 offensive rebounds came in the fourth quarter, and nine of their 20 second-chance points came in the frame.
Of course, you don’t make a double-digit comeback in the fourth quarter without some luck. With 14.2 seconds remaining, Giannis went to the line with the Bucks trailing by two. He made the first free throw, but missed the second one badly. Somehow, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown collided and neither were able to grab the rebound, which popped right to Bobby Portis for the game-winning layup.
2. Holiday makes a statement on defense
Marcus Smart was named Defensive Player of the Year this season, becoming the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996. You could make a case, however, that he isn’t even the best defensive guard in this series. Jrue Holiday certainly believes as much, and he tried to prove it down the stretch in Game 5.
After Portis put the Bucks ahead with 11.4 seconds remaining, the Celtics still had a chance to win the game or at least go back in front. The ball went in bounds to Smart, who saw a brief opening and tried to go right to the basket. Pat Connaughton was able to cut him off, which forced Smart to readjust and gave Holiday time to come flying in and stuff the shot. Even more impressive, Holiday recovered the loose ball and threw it off Smart.
Even then, the game wasn’t over. Connaughton made two free throws, but the Celtics were only down by three and still had an opportunity to tie things up. They never even got a shot off, as Holiday stripped Smart near halfcourt to secure the win.
Those kind of plays are exactly why the Bucks traded for Holiday prior to last season. He hasn’t always been consistent on the offensive end, but he is a complete game-changer on defense, as he reminded everyone on Wednesday.
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3. Celtics revert to early-season offense
There were plenty of reasons for the Celtics’ collapse, a number of which have been detailed above. But while the Bucks deserve a ton of credit for making plays, Boston certainly helped them out with a disappointing offensive approach down the stretch.
With just over five minutes to play, Jayson Tatum hit a mid-range jumper to put the Celtics up 101-95. From that point on, they scored just six points and shot 2-for-8 from the field. Sometimes you miss shots, but that wasn’t the issue for Boston. Rather, it was that they resorted to the methodical and predictable late-game offense that plagued them early in the season.
Here’s a look at their shots in the final five minutes:
- Jaylen Brown mid-range runner: miss
- Al Horford layup: blocked
- Jayson Tatum turnaround mid-range jumper: make
- Jayson Tatum fadeaway mid-range jumper: miss
- Jaylen Brown pull-up mid-range jumper: miss
- Al Horford putback dunk: make
- Jayson Tatum fadeaway mid-range jumper: miss
- Marcus Smart running layup: blocked
The Celtics turned things around this season — and have had the most success this series — when they started moving the ball, getting into the teeth of the defense and putting teams in rotation. They didn’t do any of that in the final few minutes, and they paid the price.