“As a team, I don’t know where Milwaukee goes from here, I think it’s over.” Boston Celtic legend and NBA analyst Paul Pierce declared this series over after game one. Fast forward a week later and the Bucks now hold a 3-1 series advantage after dismantling the beaten-down Celtics in their own arena, 113-101.
While it was a very ugly game for both teams, that’s not what matters. The entire purpose is to have more points than the other team after 48 minutes and Milwaukee has figured out how to do that in three straight games now. In each game, a third quarter run has proved to be the difference. In game four, it happened with Giannis, Middleton, and Bledsoe on the bench. George Hill picked up the slack the starters left and willed the Bucks to a double-digit lead by the end of the quarter.
From the jump, the Celtics seemed engaged and had a pretty good game plan. Their biggest issue was hitting the wide open shots their offense provided from them. This was also a big problem for Milwaukee, but the difference was the fact that the Bucks are just better finishers overall in the paint. Giannis was more unstoppable than any game this series and George Hill along with Pat Connaughton carried a very important second unit.
The player of the game was unequivocally Giannis. He finished with 39/16/4 on 15-22 from the floor. He’s gotten better with each and every game this postseason and is showing no signs of slowing down. He did this even with foul trouble for most of the game and only being on the court for 34 minutes. No other player in the game scored more than 23, so that should say everything about how Giannis played in this one. His aggressiveness along with his patience for the right move has made him the biggest asset in the playoffs.
The Bucks bench again made a huge difference much like game three. Led by Connaughton and Hill, Milwaukee’s bench players outscored Boston’s bench 33-7 and won the turnover battle by forcing four while not giving away a single possession. A key to this Celtic’s team was supposed to be their depth and youth and so far these factors have been their demise.
For Boston, they really can only blame themselves. After all the complaining about officiating after game three, they finally got the calls in their favor and still couldn’t put together a win. Kyrie went 7-22 from the floor after being on record saying he won’t have another performance like his 8-22 in game three. As a team, Boston shot 9-41 from deep. Given their game plan to attack the corners, this didn’t work out well. They fought for 40 minutes of the game, but the Bucks are built for 48.
Marcus Smart returned for the Celtics to play in his first playoff this season. Smart is known as the heart of the Boston roster as well as their leader on defense. Well, he went just 1-7, all from three. Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon remained out but is optimistic to return soon. He’s a major piece to the Bucks squad and the fact that he hasn’t been a factor for a couple months now just makes Milwaukee all that much more intimidating when he returns.
In the history of NBA playoffs, over 96% of the time the team with a 3-1 lead ends up winning the series. This plus the Celtics clearly looking like a dysfunctional group that is giving up and Milwaukee playing game five in Fiserv Forum makes this series seem as good as over. Crazier things have happened, so the Bucks will still need to be 100% ready to close this one out and get some added rest before the Eastern Conference Finals, as the series between Toronto and Philadelphia will at least see a game six.
The Boston Celtics will try and preserve their season on Wednesday in Milwaukee, tip at 7:00 p.m.