Boston, MA—The flight going home must have felt pretty good for the Bucks. Bobby Portis put back Giannis Antetokounmpo’s missed free throw with 15 seconds left in the game, and Holiday D Up Marcus Smart on Boston’s final two possessions Wednesday night as Milwaukee erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Celtics 110-107 and take a 3-2 series lead at the TD Garden.
Antetokounmpo had his best shooting night of the playoffs. Milwaukee dominated the glass. And still, the Bucks were down by 14 points in a game that could have sent the defending NBA champions packing for the Summer.
Giannis had 40 points and 11 boards, making 16 of 27 shots from the floor – including a long trey to make it 105-102 with 1:40 to play in the contest. Holiday finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and Bobby Portis chipped in 14 points and 15 boards. Milwaukee can advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a victory in Game 6 at home Friday night.
”Obviously, in Boston you’re down 14 in the fourth quarter, people would say everything’s against us. But we come together,” said Jrue Holiday, who also hit the tying 3-pointer with 43 seconds left. ”We live and die like that.”
The Celtics also scored 11 points off nine Bucks turnovers while turning it over just twice as they lead by as many 13 in the first half. Antetokounmpo scored 19 of the Bucks’ points while Holiday added nine, but the other six players to see court time combined for only 19 points.
The Bucks opened the game making 3 of its first 4 three-pointers in the first two minutes of play – but then went 1 for 12 the rest of the half as Boston took a 54-47 lead into halftime.
“It’s a big win,” Holiday said. “That was the plan. The plan was to come here and get a win and no matter if we were up 20, no matter if we were down 20, we wanted to leave here with a win and we did the best we could and got the win.”
The Celtics finish the third quarter with runs of 11-4 and 10-2 to lead by as many as a dozen before ultimately taking an 86-77 lead into the fourth. Boston played shabby defense at the end of third.
Boston led 93-79 early in the fourth before the Bucks inched closer, tying the game at 105 with 43 seconds to play on back-to-back 3-pointers from Antetokounmpo and Holiday. Tatum hit a pair of free throws to give the Celtics back the lead.
Portis went to work and hit Holiday with a nice pass for three-pointer to tie the game at 105 with 41 ticks left. Then, after Jayson Tatum gave the Celtics a 107-105 lead with a pair of free throws with 31 seconds to go, Portis came to the rescue of Giannis Antetokounmpo by putting back a missed free throw to make it 108-107 Milwaukee with 11.4 seconds left.
“He has a nose for the ball, he has nose for scoring,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said of the put back. “It’s just a huge play.”
Off the ensuing inbound, Holiday stole the ball from Marcus Smart as he tried to shoot it, ripping it out of the air. That led to a Bucks timeout and Pat Connaughton sunk two free throws to make it 110-107 with five seconds remaining. Holiday then clinched it by stealing the ball from Smart.
“Big time, big time play, great block and was able to keep his balance and stay on the court,” Antetokounmpo said. “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.”
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points on 12-of-29 shooting while Brown had 26. Smart finished with 15 while Daniel Theis (11) and Derrick White (nine) provided a spark off the bench. Al Horford was limited to eight points on 4-of-7 shooting.
”If we box out we win that game,” Smart said. ”They’re the defending champs. They made some championship plays. And now we’ve got to bounce back.”