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NBA Playoffs 2018 - Milwaukee vs. Boston: Bucks Stave Off Elimination, 97-86

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The best two words in all of sports are now upon us...GAME 7!

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Well, well, well. The Milwaukee Bucks live to see another day! With their backs up against the wall, they fended off the Boston Celtics by a 97-86 score, setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 clash Saturday night in Boston.

It was a slow start out of the gates for Milwaukee. The trio of Bledsoe, Antetokounmpo, and Middleton would be held scoreless until the 6:25 mark, which was when Middleton finally got the Big 3 on the board. Despite Antetokounmpo not connecting on his first bucket until 4:04 remained in the first, Milwaukee was only down 24-22 when the horn sounded — thanks in large part to a small 7-0 run courtesy of Parker and Middleton.

Resurgence would pace the Bucks in the second quarter. Giannis & Co. would explode for a 26 point effort, turning a two point deficit into a nine point advantage. At halftime, Milwaukee maintained a 48-39 lead.

The Bucks would explode out to a 55-41 lead to start things out in the second half, but that party wouldn’t last long. Boston would immediately trim it to single digits, and that’s where the margin sat for most of the period. However, a late surge would catapult the Bucks back up to the nine point margin they held at halftime, 74-65.

Throughout the fourth quarter, Milwaukee would feed off the energy that was being pumped in by the home crowd. It was an inevitable force. The largest breakthrough came when the Bucks leapt in front by double digits with two minutes remaining, sticking the dagger in the Celtics. This series is too juicy to be decided in just six games. When it was all said and done, the Bucks found a must-needed 97-86 victory. LET’S PLAY ANOTHER ONE, FOLKS.

The one and only Giannis Antetokounmpo would be the game-high scorer, finishing his performance with 31 points (and somehow, it wasn’t a podium game?). Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon matched each other with 16 of their own, and Jabari Parker contributed off the bench with nine points. His 11 rebounds were also a refreshing statistic to see.

Rookie Jayson Tatum had an impressive game of his own, finishing with a team-high 22 points for Boston. Terry Rozier made it five straight games of scoring double figures, finishing next in line with 16 points. Jaylen Brown was held in check to 14 points on the evening.

Three Observations

For this life I cannot change! Giannis continues to be the heartbeat to this team.

Big name players show up for big games, and that’s just what the Greek Freak did last night. The All-Star went 13-of-23 on shooting and exploded for a crucial 31 points, earning his third double-double of the series. He also made his presence felt across the stat sheet, finishing with a team-high 14 boards and four assists. Just another run-of-the-mill Giannis game. However, we still haven’t had a real Giannis takeover game. It’s part of the reason why I’m using him as my No. 1 main observation. Game 7’s usually come down to the team with the best player in the series. And yes, Giannis is the best player in this series. I don’t know about y’all, but Game 7 would be quite a good time for him to have his defining game. Sign me up for a 45 point, 15 board, nine assist game.

I’m pretty sure Malcolm Brogdon’s middle name is “Clutch.”

Seriously — I am. Once again, El Presidente came up big when the lights were shining the brightest. Down the stretch, his 3-pointer from the corner was part of a big slide that helped push Milwaukee into winning position. And how about those baseline threes, eh?

Brogdon’s valiant night didn’t stop there either. A few possessions after sinking that three, he went 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. On a night where it seemed Milwaukee could at best split a pair every trip to the line, that was massive (granted, he split a pair later on, but still). He also had a driving layup in crunch time, a skill that’s quickly becoming a characteristic of his game. Some people note him as a slow mover with the basketball, but he can still definitely kick it into high gear and blow past defenders. A big game from The President, as it marked the fourth time he has registered double figures this postseason.

GAME 7, BABY.

The best words in all of sports. Nothing beats it. I don’t care what round or sport it is. If there’s a Game 7, you bet I’ll be tuning in. Now, it’s not good for our health by any stretch of the imagination. But the fact that this Bucks team was resilient enough to stand up when their backs were up against the wall is very nice to see. In the last two playoff series against Chicago and Toronto, they were never able to force that final decisive game. It’ll also provide some good experience to everyone on the roster. You know at some point Giannis & Co. will have a Game 7 experience in the later rounds on their path to the championship. It’ll be exciting to see how they react to a raucous environment in Boston. Fasten your seat belts, folks.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Me, Matt Velazquez, Eric Nehm, and Charles Gardner were all talking about Eric Bledsoe in the media room prior to the game. We all agreed that he hasn’t been what the Bucks hoped for this season, and also came to the agreement that if technology was somehow able to fuse Bledsoe’s athleticism with Dellavedova’s grit and on-court awareness, the Bucks would have a superstar point guard. It was another rollercoaster night for the Kentucky product, as whenever he hit a basket, it seemed to be cancelled out by a head-scratching turnover or questionable pass. If there’s one guy the Bucks need to show up Saturday night in Boston besides Giannis, it’s Bledsoe.
  • One of my biggest pet peeves in all of basketball is missed free throws. Missing box outs are up there too (and unfortunately that seemed to happen quite a bit with all of the offensive boards Boston received). Milwaukee ended up going 13-of-21 from the line. Whenever a team nears double-digit misses like that, it’s always a cause of concern. There’s a reason why they’re called free throws, and it really worries me whenever the Bucks miss like they did last night. They had no trouble getting to the line, but now it’s just a matter of converting them.
  • As always, this crowd was electric. My ears were constantly ringing throughout the game and I wouldn’t want it any other way. By far, the coolest moment was the Bucks in 7 chant that unfolded as the final seconds ticked away. So cool to see. And it wouldn’t stop there. I kid you not — we were in the press room and while Brad Stevens was giving his closing remarks, you could hear that chant in the background. Bucks fans are truly awesome. It may seem cliche when players talk about the impact fans have on them and how they feed off their energy, but it’s 1,000 percent true.
  • Regardless of your political affiliation, it’s pretty cool whenever you have a former President in the house. That was the case last night as the 42nd President of the United States had a courtside seat to the action:

My only wish was that the Bucks would’ve put him on the jumbotron at the beginning of the game when they were showing fans that hadn’t put on their Fear The Deer t-shirts yet.

  • Khris Middleton continues to be criminally underrated, but water is wet. Khash has now scored double figures in all six games this series, posting a 7-for-8 shot line along with going 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. He’d end up pouring in 16 points with five rebounds. Man, I cannot wait to see how good he is when there’s a coaching staff that actually has the offense moving around the floor. It’s going to be a sight to behold.
  • Oh yeah — this just in. When you hit shots, you’re more likely to win basketball games. That was the case for the Bucks last night, as they shot a crisp 50.7 percent from the field. That was the fourth game this postseason they’ve shot 50 percent or more. We all know what happens when they dip below that clip. If victory is in the tea leaves Saturday night, they need to shoot the ball at a high rate. No margin for error.
  • If that was the last ever Bucks game at the Bradley Center, I’m glad they were able to go out on a high note. It would’ve sucked having the season end with another Game 6 loss there.