The Milwaukee Bucks took the fifth game of the tie against Boston in an agonizing way. The defending champions pulled the strings to win 107-110 and regain home court advantage, which will give them the opportunity to close the series this Friday in Game 6. Despite going under for much of the match, Budenholzer’s men managed to survive to the Celtics’ gale and turn the game around in the final minutes, returning to the Massachusetts team what they had done in Game 4 and dealing a serious moral blow to Udoka’s team, who were superior for much of the game.
Punishing with ‘pick & roll’
After a first scoring quarter, the hostilities began in the second, in which Boston began to fuel and exploit the problems that the Bucks had been showing throughout the tie. The lack of offensive circulation for the visitors made it very difficult for them to punish the aggressive defense of the Celtics, which gave a lot of problems to several men, especially Jrue Holiday, and based on steals and fast breaks they began to cement the local advantage.
On the other hand, Milwaukee’s problems in the pick & roll defense became more evident than ever in this duel, as Udoka’s insistence on this play began to bare Budenholzer’s tactical rigidity and allowed Jayson Tatum to begin to shine. . The forward, who finished with 34 points, took advantage of the spaces that the interiors of the Wisconsin gave him in the middle distance to score one after another, and in the third quarter Jaylen Brown, who reached 26, joined him to continue to grow the advantage.
Only Giannis Antetokounmpo seemed to offer resistance, and the truth is that it was enough resistance to keep his team alive for many minutes. The Greek, who signed another colossal performance of 40 points and 11 rebounds, was practically the only person responsible for the fact that the clash did not arrive sentenced to the last quarter, insistently attacking the hoop and forcing holes in a defense that practically did not concede them. However, with the course of the duel it became more and more evident that the forward could not do it alone. And after a basket by Payton Pritchard that made it 93-79 with 10 minutes remaining, something changed in the Bucks.
the heart of a champion
Wisconsin came out of Budenholzer’s requested timeout looking like a completely different team. The coach finally made adjustments, going for a smaller but more mobile quintet with Bobby Portis at center and switching on direct blocks in response to the home team’s pick & roll, which paid off big time in stalling the offense of Boston. Just as important was the change on the other side of the pitch, in which after 38 minutes without ideas, the ball finally began to circulate, the men without the ball began to move and generate advantages, and the players not named Antetokounmpo began to contribute really.
A pair of early 3-pointers by Pat Connaughton and Wesley Matthews made Milwaukee believe, and it was gaining ground as the minutes passed as the pressure ate up the Celtics. The champions brought out their best version when they needed it most, showing off the success of the triple that they had missed throughout the series (6/6 in this quarter) and taking advantage of their physical power to really prevail in the battle for the rebound and overwhelm his rival simply by shooting more times at the basket. In total, they grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, 7 of them in the fourth quarter, and one of them in the most important moment of their season.
After tying the game in the final minute, the Bucks had fallen behind again after Tatum made two free throws, and on the next possession it was Giannis who, with 14 seconds left, was sent to 4.60. The Greek scored his first shot but missed his second, which would have earned the tie, which turned out to be good news for them though. Bobby Portis grabbed the rebound and scored under the rim to finish turning the game around, putting Milwaukee ahead for the first time since the second quarter and proving that Budenholzer’s adjustments had paid off.
Holiday and the sense of ‘timing’
There were still 11 seconds left for the Celtics, who, after a timeout, pulled out and put the ball in the hands of Marcus Smart. The point guard was probably not the player for whom the play was designed, but the Connaughton defense denied him a header and the point guard went to the rim, where he found no one and decided to look for the basket. Pat tried to tease him, but it looked like the Celtics had two relatively easy points until a hand came up.
Holiday was not signing much less a great meeting. His offensive accuracy problems had once again been a problem for his team, and in fact the worst stretches of the Bucks in the game had come when, with Giannis resting, he had focused on scoring instead of playing more collectively. In the last quarter, however, the point guard came to the rescue of the team when they needed him most, scoring 8 of his 24 points, including the triple that made it 105-105, and blocking Smart’s penetration attempt to keep his team in front.
Jrue not only blocked Marcus’s shot, but managed to grab the ball, land with both feet inside the court, and throw the ball into the body of the Celtics before losing his balance so that the visitors retained possession. This allowed Connaughton to widen the difference from the free throw, and when, running out of timeouts, Boston desperately sought a 3-pointer, Holiday re-emerged as a hero, stealing the ball from Smart and sealing the victory for his team.
In this way, the series will return to Milwaukee after a severe setback for Udoka’s team, although if something has been shown, it is that both teams have plenty of capacity to get up. Without a doubt, a fierce Game 6 is coming, which will probably give more moments to remember in what is, without a doubt, the best tie of these playoffs.
(Cover photo: Maddie Malhorta/Getty Images)