The end of the year is so close you can smell it In what was both their regular season home finale and their final national TV appearance before the playoffs start, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics.
Initially, the game itself carried much less of the interest than it would have otherwise, as the Celtics rested Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, possibly in intentional pursuit of the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference (and the Chicago Bulls, who are likely to finish lined up at 6th). Whether they threw the game or not (spoiler: they didn’t) didn’t affect the Bucks, who came out strong and took Boston’s best shots before surging forward and putting forth a strong effort.
Then the third quarter happened, because of course it did. The fourth quarter was a thrilling bit of basketball, with Boston re-taking the lead, Milwaukee whittling it back down bit by bit, and the Bucks staging a strong defense of the lead in the final moments before the buzzer rang out through Fiserv Forum.
The defensive effort at the end of the game is now a Milwaukee trademark. Late in the fourth quarter when the offense couldn’t get enough going, the Bucks created three consecutive turnovers to provide the extra possessions Milwaukee needed to manufacture points and re-take the lead. Inside the three minute mark, Giannis stood up Jaylen Brown at the rim while he soared in for a dunk while the Bucks were down only 1 point. Later on and protecting a modest lead, George Hill pounced on a dribbling miscue by Jaylen Brown, and his layup was goaltended to push the lead up to the final margin.
FINAL: Bucks 127, Celtics 121— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) April 8, 2022
The Celtics did not score in the final 91 seconds. https://t.co/YKZNk22zEU
Milwaukee’s late-game defense is approaching “expected” status. At full strength, they have demonstrated a penchant for locking everything down when the stakes are at their highest. A stroll through the Celtics’ late fourth quarter play-by-play data is littered with words like “Miss” or “Turnover” and it’s because the Bucks have become a team that flips the switch when the situation calls for it. It’s a frustrating ability, but when it works...it works.
Jrue, Khris, and Giannis were all heavily involved on offense. The Bucks do well when the Big Three all show out, and Milwaukee’s stars managed to put themselves in position to win the game by virtue other production. Giannis (29 points), Khris (22 points), and Jrue Holiday (29 points) all had efficient scoring nights, while also combining for 27 rebounds and 22 assists. A big part of that was the limited Celtics roster, missing a pair of starters that would have otherwise tilted the scales closer to neutral than it actually was.
Bobby Buckets is back. After going through a funk, Bobby Portis flourished in his reserve role this evening, scoring 17 points on 11 shots and nabbing 7 boards. Interestingly enough, Portis was actually a member of the closing lineup tonight (alongside the aforementioned Big Three and Wes Matthews), coming out only in favor of George Hill when the Bucks had an under-control lead and less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The first quarter closed in a sort of way that will give longtime Bucks fans pleasant Aussie flashbacks.
I’m on a slight delay but Khris Middleton with the ultimate Delly tribute against the Celtics on the inbound steal. Enough to make me emotional.— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) April 8, 2022
- Not to be forgotten, Brook Lopez posted 15 points and 7 boards in 24 minutes of action, but more importantly looked like his usual self. A pleasant omen heading into the playoffs.
- Giannis ended up posting as close to his exact season averages as you can: 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Uncanny, and underscoring just how lucky this team is to have a guy who can put up that sort of stat line...and have it literally be described as an “average” game.
- The Bucks closed the season with a 27-15 record (0.658 winning percentage) at home this year. Even though they’re only marginally worse on the road thus far, having home court advantage in the postseason should be helpful.
- The team honored a member of their PR staff pre-game, and it was cool to see someone who’s been so supportive of this here fan-driven blog get a moment in the spotlight after 25 years of hard work and dedication to the franchise. Enough of us Brew Hoopers, past and present, have gotten a chance to work with Dan Smyczek to know that he represents a great organization, in part made great due to his contributions.