Bucks-Celtics Game 5 was an instant classic that will define the NBA Playoffs

Bucks-Celtics Game 5 was an instant classic that will define the NBA Playoffs

The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics can each win the championship this season. Anyone who has invested in their second-round streak in the 2022 NBA Playoffs understands this intuitively. The Celtics have been the hottest team in the league since February, fueled by a historically good defense. The core of the Bucks proved their worth by winning last year’s title. It feels wrong that either of these teams will see their season-ending in Round 2, but it only makes this matchup feel even more jarring.

This was the most compelling series of Round 2 even before Game 5, which historically feels like the most significant game of any playoff series — at least before Game 7. If a series is tied 2-2 in the NBA playoffs, the team who game 5 wins, the series wins 83 percent of the time. With the series set to return to Milwaukee for Game 6, there was no denying that Wednesday night’s matchup was going to be monumental.

Bucks-Celtics Game 5 didn’t just live up to the hype – it gave us an instant classic that we might remember for years to come. Milwaukee’s 110-107 win to take a crucial 3-2 straight lead provided everything a great playoff game should have and then some.

The Celtics led by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee hadn’t held the lead since the start of the second quarter and just didn’t seem to have enough offensive firepower to win the game. Every moment of the fourth quarter felt frozen, but somehow the defending champion Bucks made more plays to make it through.

This game could be a turning point for the Giannis era

Giannis Antetokounmpo branded himself the best player in the world during his run to the 2021 championship. Antetokounmpo suffered a scary knee injury in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals but returned for the NBA Finals, pulling his team out of a 0-2 series hole to win the championship. In the Bucks’ title-winning Game 6, Antetokounmpo had 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks while defeating his personal demons from the free-throw line by scoring 17-of-19 on the night. When it was over, he hit the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Giannis already had two MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year trophy prior to last season, but watching him win a ring felt like it officially cemented him as the best basketball player alive. This really feels like Giannis’ league right now, but the margin error is small even for the all-time greats.

Boston is perfectly capable of knocking out the Bucks — especially with Milwaukee missing out on one of its “big three” with Khris Middleton out with a knee injury. The Celtics can certainly still win this series and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if they did win the title. But given how important it has historically been to win Game 5, it certainly feels like the Bucks are in control now.

The Celtics could have put a big damper on the idea that this is the Giannis era by winning Game 5. They were in control of the game. Somehow, the Bucks made the comeback, with the best player in the world taking the win with 40 points and 11 rebounds.

The Celtics have felt like the better team this series, but there’s no denying that Giannis is the best player on the floor. At this point, it feels like winning a championship means going through Giannis.

Jrue Holiday made 2 super human moves to claim the win

Holiday always felt like one of the least appreciated stars of his generation prior to last season. He’s arguably the best defender of this era, and he’s also capable of scoring 20 or 25 points any night. Holiday made some gigantic plays to end the Bucks’ title run last year, and now he has another bright moment to add to his legacy.

With the Celtics trailing behind and smashing the ball in with 11 seconds left, Marcus Smart received the inbounds pass and turned the corner to look for the go-ahead layup. He would have had it if it wasn’t for Holiday, who blocked the shot from behind and somehow kept it in the inbound before flipping it off Smart to make it Buck’s ball. This really is an all-timer.

After the Bucks took two free throws to extend the lead to three points, Smart received the inbounds pass and pinned the ball to the ground. Holiday was there to greet him and steal the ball to cement the win for Milwaukee.

It’s a legendary way to win a massive game. What Holiday did was justifiably historic.

There were so many incredible moves in this game

Holiday’s double defensive jewels will likely be the plays that have stood the test since Game 5, but there have been so many other game-changing moments.

How about that fourth-quarter dunk from Jayson Tatum?

Then there was that ridiculous tip-dunk by Al Horford that put Boston to sixth by just over two minutes.

Giannis was 2-of-16 from three-point range in that series when he entered Game 5. Usually, Giannis three-pointers are hard for Bucks fans to take, but after Horford’s tip-dunk, he hit a huge three-pointer to reduce the deficit to three in less than two minutes remaining. Holiday followed with another hard three to level the game with the next possession.

Finally, there was Bobby Portis’ putback after a missed free throw by Giannis that finally gave the Bucks the lead. Milwaukee hit Boston on the offensive glass all night, and that was the one that really hurt.

Milwaukee won the offensive rebound fight 17-5. The Bucks also shot 6-for-6 from three-point range in the fourth quarter. Again, the margin of error for both teams is so low.

Game 5 will be a turning point either way.

If Milwaukee wins the series—hell, if Milwaukee repeats as champions—we’ll look back on that game as a true game changer. If Boston comes back to win that series — or even the championship — we’ll point to this Game 5 and say the Celtics were able to pick themselves off the ground and recover from such an emotional loss.

We were able to witness that as basketball fans. Game 6 takes place in Milwaukee on Friday. Don’t miss it.

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