By Terrance Turner
May 11, 2022
Tonight, NBA fans were treated to an ultra-dramatic showdown between two top teams. The Milwaukee Bucks faced the Boston Celtics in Boston in Game 5 of their playoff series. The stakes could hardly have been higher: as TNT reminded viewers at the top of the game,the Game 5 winner goes on to win the series 82% of the time. It would be a game to remember.
The Bucks took a 9-2 lead early on, thanks to nimble three-pointers by guard Grayson Allen, Jrue Holiday, and Wesley Matthews. But Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown countered with threes of their own. Milwaukee was up 11 to 8 with 7:25 remaining when Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown slammed down a dunk to make it 11 to 10.
Milwaukee led 13-12 until Tatum gave Boston the lead with 5:47 remaining. Then Holiday regained Milwaukee’s lead with a pull-up jump shot. Holiday expanded the lead a minute later when he scored in the paint, putting the Bucks ahead 19-14. But then Boston went on a 6-0 run to take the lead, thanks to point guard Marcus Smart and center Daniel Theis. Milwaukee guard Pat Connaughton made a 23 foot 3-point jumper to regain the lead for Milwaukee, but Boston was never far behind. The Bucks led 28-24 at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Celtics center Al Horford made a steal, passing to Tatum — who laid it in. That layup tied the game at 30. Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo shot back with one of his signature one-handed layups, but Tatum countered with a jump shot for three. Milwaukee trailed 32 to 37 and then 36 to 40 when Matthews was blocked by Horford. Giannis drove to the basket and was fouled, but his shot went in. Milwaukee pulled within two, trailing 38 to 40, but the Celtics went on an 11-0 run, topped by a Tatum slam.
Milwaukee scored on back-to-back possessions, but Boston held on to its double-digit lead, despite deft work by Antetokounmpo. Only in the last minute of the half did he manage to cut the deficit. drawing a foul from Horford, he still managed to spin and make the one-handed shot. Boston led 54 to 47 at the half.
The Celtics continued to maintain their edge early in the third quarter. Brown and Tatum helped keep Boston’s lead at nine, though Matthews and Holiday drained three-pointers to make it a three-point game. Tatum made a tip shot; Giannis countered with a jumper. Bucks center Brook Lopez sank an 18-foot jumper to bring the Bucks within one. But Brown, after missing a layup got his own offensive rebound and made the shot to make it 62-59.
With six minutes left in the third, a scoring volley ensued: Smart made a driving layup, but so did Holiday in response. Tatum had a floater jump shot; Giannis responded with his own two-point shot. Smart countered with a step back jump shot. And so it went until the final 3 minutes of the third quarter when Boston started to pull away. A three-point jumper from Smart, followed by a pointer from Brown, pushed Boston’s lead to 11; they led 81-70. The lead stretched to as much as 12 in the quarter’s waning moments; Celtics were up 86-77 at the end of the third quarter.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The Celtics expanded their nine-point lead to 93-79 with 10 minutes, 16 seconds to go, but a handful of three-pointers from Holiday, Connaughton and Wesley Matthews sparked a Bucks rally as they cut it to 101-99 with 4:08 left. It appeared as if Boston stemmed the tide after Al Horford split Antetokounmpo and Connaughton for a tip-slam off a missed Jaylen Brown jumper to make it 105-99 with 2:13 to go.” Brown missed a wide-open three, but Horford grabbed the rebound and slammed it down.
That play proved injurious for one of the Bucks. As Antetokounmpo reached up for the rebound on Brown’s missed shot, so did Connaughton — who accidentally elbowed Giannis in the face. That caused a cut that required medical attention; when the game returned from a commercial break, TNT announcers informed viewers that Antetokounmpo had been treated for a bleeding cut right above his eye.
But that didn’t stop him from playing. As the blood began to pour, Giannis found himself wide open for one of his biggest shots of the game. After a missed three from Bucks center Bobby Portis, Giannis decided to try for a three of his own — and drilled it. Somehow he made the shot, even with blood now streaming down his face. Then, with 42 seconds left, he drove down the lane and passed to Portis. With 44 seconds left, Portis passed to Holiday, who sank the three! Holiday’s three-pointer tied the game at 105.
Tatum was fouled and made both free throws, but Antetokounmpo was fouled by Grant Williams (who hooked his arm, causing Giannis to fall). Then Williams fouled him again — this time, a shooting foul. At this point, game play had to be stopped so that medical staff could tend to Antetokounmpo’s eye. Once the bleeding had stopped, he went to the line. He made the first free throw and missed the second, but Portis grabbed the rebound and tossed it up and in. Milwaukee took the lead, 108-107, with 11.4 seconds remaining.
Boston gained possession. Smart had the ball in the paint, but Holiday blocked his shot, collected the ball, and somehow had the awareness to throw it towards Smart so that it would bounce out of bounds. Because the ball had last contact with the Smart, the Bucks got possession with 6.6 seconds left. Commentators praised Holiday for his deft defensive play.
So did his teammates. “Big time, big time play, great block and was able to keep his balance and stay on the court,” Antetokounmpo said after the game. “Then at the end of the game he got that steal again from Marcus Smart. Big time plays down the stretch. That’s what Jrue does.”
He does indeed. After two clutch free throws by Pat Connaughton (who was fouled), Boston regained possession, and Smart had the ball again. But before he could even go for a shot, Holiday stole the ball from him and ran out the clock. Milwaukee won, 110-107, to win Game 5. They now lead the series 3-2.
Antetokounmpo scored a series-high 40 points and had 11 rebounds, while Holiday scored 24 with eight rebounds and eight assists. Portis came off the bench to score 14. (He had 15 rebounds as well.) Connaughton added 13 points off the bench, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
In a postgame interview, Antetokounmpo credited his team for the win. “We kept our composure; we kept believing in one another,” he said. How did they pull off this come-from-behind win? “We trust one another,” he said. “I think the game slowed down for us. We wasn’t in a rush. We tried to get what we wanted to get […] we made some shots.”
“It feels good. It feels good but at the end of the day we can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have two games ahead of us. We have one at home and hopefully we can go there and put ourselves in position to win, enjoy the game as much as possible, compete and play good basketball.”