What a difference a week makes. Since starting the series last Sunday, the Milwaukee Bucks evened the series against the Boston Celtics, after hanging on late to take Game 4, 104-102.
The Bucks’ Game 3 turnaround was entirely attributed to energy and effort, in that Milwaukee brought it all and Boston couldn’t match it. With only four chances left to get a trio of wins, the Bucks would have to keep their momentum today to have any hope at winning their first playoff series since 2001.
After a slow start, Milwaukee stomped on the gas pedal and refused to let up. Much like in Game 3, the Bucks capably switched on the Celtics’ offensive action, and used their length to disrupt the Boston offense. They maintained their intensity for most of the first half, but mysteriously broke down towards the end of the third quarter, allowing Boston to break the lead down from 20 to 6. Boston eventually tied things up at 77-77 in the fourth, and had entirely taken control of the contest, setting the stage for a dramatic finish. Milwaukee kept making mistakes and Boston kept capitalizing upon them, leading to the nail-biter victory.
Milwaukee was, for the first time in a long time, led in nearly all facets by their trio of talented wings: Giannis Antetokounmpo (27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), Khris Middleton (23 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks), and Jabari Parker (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals). Many fans had assumed that we wouldn’t be lucky enough to see the Bucks succeed with each of these three making major contributions, but as Giannis and Khris continue carrying the team, Jabari has seemingly made a complete on-court turnaround and joined them as a core contributor. Fans of a future outlook that includes all three players certainly enjoyed that. The Bucks also got support from Malcolm Brogdon (10 points), Eric Bledsoe (9 points, 5 assists), and Thon Maker (8 points, 5 blocks).
For Boston, they spent a fair amount of energy trying (and failing) to establish any offensive momentum early on, scoring only 35 points in the first half. However, they were invigorated after halftime and were able to overcome the obstacles presented by Milwaukee (with a bit of help from the Bucks themselves). Jaylen Brown (34 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) consistently made tough plays, and Jayson Tatum (21 points) came alive after a rough start. Marcus Morris (13 points on 4/14 shooting) struggled to make his mark, and Al Horford (13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) was still effective, but had his offensive output more limited than previously. Terry Rozier (10 points, 8 assists) also continued letting people know who he was, but shot poorly (2/10 from deep).
Stat That Stood Out
The Bucks blocked 13 shots in Game 3, and managed to beat that total with 14 blocks tonight. Milwaukee maintained their switch-happy defense in order to flummox the Celtics’ offense and force them into bad spots, but Thon Maker (5 blocks) led the charge by simply refusing to give up when chasing down attempts wherever they came from.