NBA Playoffs: Giannis powers Bucks past Celtics, Grizzlies maul Warriors
Boston, Massachusetts - Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why he might just be the best player in the world in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-107 comeback road win against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
The two-time MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP was a dominant force in Boston, finishing with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting, keeping his side in touch as they struggled in the first half, and making clutch plays down the stretch to help the Bucks win the fourth quarter 33-21.
It was a bright start in the first quarter for Milwaukee, with Antetokounmpo only scoring four points as role players hit shots and Jrue Holiday had nine early, but their star had to take over in the second quarter as the offense stalled.
Antetokounmpo had 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points as the Celtics threatened to pull away, leading 54-42 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Both teams were clicking in the third quarter, but every time the Bucks closed the gap, the Celtics had an answer in front of their raucous home fans, with an Antetokounmpo pull-up three to end the quarter needed to trim the margin to an 86-77 Boston lead.
With 10 minutes to play, the Celtics led 93-79 – and then everything began to fall apart.
Celtics run out of gas late on
The once-fluid Boston offense devolved into a stagnant, turn-taking, isolation-heavy mess, consistently not even beginning to attack until there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, often resulting in tough, contested, long two-point jump shots by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Trailing 105-99 with two minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo drained a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, before Holiday tied it up via a long-ball with 42 seconds on the clock.
Two Tatum free throws put the Celtics back ahead, before Antetokounmpo earned two shots himself.
He scored the first – with blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eye – and missed the second, but Bobby Portis was able to come up with the offensive rebound in a scramble and put it back in to take a 108-107 lead with 11 seconds remaining.
The last 11 seconds was a chance for Holiday to make a statement. Widely considered the best defensive guard in the game, Holiday blocked the shot of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, snatching the ball out of the air in the process to win possession.
After two successful free throws from Pat Connaughton, Holiday put the finishing touches on the game by picking Smart's pocket once again as he tried to bring the ball up for one last attempt at tying it, taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 headed back to Milwaukee.
In NBA playoff history, when a series has been tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 82.2% of the time (180-39).
If the Celtics can win Game 6, the Game 7 decider will head back to Boston.
Grizzlies maul Warriors to pull closer
With their season on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Golden State Warriors 134-95 as nine players scored at least nine points each with star Ja Morant out injured.
The Grizzlies were expected to be competitive without Morant – going 20-5 in the 25 games he missed in the regular season – but they were far more than that, opening up a 119-67 lead at three-quarter time.
Illustrating the one-sided nature of the contest, the Warriors committed 22 turnovers compared to 10 for the Grizzlies, and grabbed just four offensive rebounds while the home side snatched down 18.
Overall, this meant the Grizzlies attempted 19 more field goals (47-of-99 compared to 36-of-80), as well as 17 more free throws (22-of-30 to nine-of-13).
Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones, and Jaren Jackson Jr. top-scored for Memphis with 21 points each, and all five Grizzlies starters finished with a plus/minus of at least plus 32.
Klay Thompson top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points on an efficient seven-of-12 shooting, but he had the worst plus/minus in the game at minus 45.
Game 6 will head back to San Francisco, and if the Grizzlies can force a Game 7, it will be played in Memphis.
Cover photo: Collage: USA TODAY Sports