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Bucks Showcase Championship Pedigree to Put Celtics on the Brink

Bucks Showcase Championship Pedigree to Put Celtics on the Brink

BOSTON: What happened?

No, really: what just happened?

The Bucks beat the Celtics 110–107 on Wednesday, seizing a 3–2 lead in the series.

And, seriously: how did that happen?

We beat ourselves, said Boston guard Marcus Smart.

Said coach Ime Udoka, We know we gave up a golden opportunity tonight.

Added forward Jaylen Brown, We gave it away.

In a wild, unpredictable NBA playoff the Grizzlies beat the Warriors by how many? this game may top them all. Ten minutes to play, Boston up 14 and this game was over. It wasn’t that the Celtics were playing great. Far from it. Jayson Tatum had 34 points but needed 29 shots to get them. Brown had 26. Al Horford, the hero of Game 4, had eight. Daniel Theis, dusted off again with Robert Williams sidelined, was the only Celtics sub in double-figures.

Milwaukee wasn’t capable of a rally. At least they shouldn’t have been. Didn’t have the firepower. At least they didn’t appear to. How many times have we been reminded how great Boston’s defense was? No way the Bucks could come back against it. With Khris Middleton sidelined, the last few games of this series have been the Giannis Antetokounmpo show. He scored 42 points in a Game 3 win. He scored 34 in a Game 4 loss. Early in Game 5, the Bucks attempted to move the ball around. Jrue Holiday had nine points. Grayson Allen had five. Bobby Portis chipped in four off the bench.

But when the Celtics’ defense tightened, Giannis took over. He scored 15 points in the second quarter. The rest of the Bucks scored four. He added 13 in the third. On the move, Antetokounmpo was unstoppable. He overpowered smaller defenders. He Euro-stepped around bigger ones. He pulled down 11 rebounds, got to the free-throw line 10 times, and connected on nearly 60% of his shots.

But he had no help. Through three quarters, only one other Bucks player, Holiday, had cracked double figures. He had 16 points, but he needed 16 shots to do it. Wesley Matthews contributed nothing. Brook Lopez was a non-factor. Boston had clobbered Milwaukee in the fourth quarter of the previous two games and had the NBA’s No. 1 defense to close it out.

Only they didn’t. A Pat Connaughton three with eight minutes left to cut the lead to single digits. A pair of Bobby Portis free throws made it six. With under a minute to play Holiday hit a three that tied it. The Bucks trailed by two when Antetokounmpo went to the free-throw line with 14 seconds left. He made the first. He missed the second but Portis, back in the rotation after playing just 15 minutes in Game 4, pulled down the rebound and flipped back in.

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