BOSTON — The Milwaukee Bucks will head home after a rousing 110-107 comeback win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night at the TD Garden and have a shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals.
After falling 14 points early in the fourth quarter, Bobby Portis and Jrue Holiday did the unthinkable in the final moments of the game to give the Bucks a 3-2 lead over the Celtics.
“It’s a big win,” said Holiday. “That was the plan. The plan was to come here and win and whether we were 20 up or 20 behind, we wanted to leave here with a win and we did our best and got the win.”
First, Portis assisted on a holiday three-pointer to tie the game at 105 with 41 seconds left. After Jayson Tatum gave the Celtics a 107-105 lead with two free throws with 31 seconds left, Portis came to the rescue of Giannis Antetokounmpo by recoating a missed free throw to make Milwaukee 108-107 with 11.4 seconds left .
“He’s got a nose for the ball, he’s got a nose for goals,” said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer of the putback. “It’s just a huge game.”
On the subsequent inbound, Holiday Marcus Smart literally took the ball out of his hands as the Boston guard tried to shoot him and snatched it out of the air. That led to a timeout from Bucks and two free throws from Pat Connaughton to make it 110-107 with five seconds remaining. Holiday then got 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 pitch,” said Antetokounmpo. “Then at the end of the game he got that steal again from Marcus Smart. Big Time plays down the track. That’s what Jrue does.”
The Bucks came back from a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to end the game with a 105-105 lead with 43.2 seconds left in a Holiday three-pointer and Bobby Portis hit the game-winner with one offensive rebound.
Game 6 takes place on Friday night at the Fiserv Forum.
“It feels good. It feels good, but at the end of the day we can’t get too high and we can’t get too low,” said Antetokounmpo. “We have two games ahead of us. We have one at home and hopefully we can go there and put ourselves in a position to win, enjoy the game as much as possible, compete and play good basketball.”
BOX RESULT:Buck’s 110, Celtic’s 107
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION:Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Brandon Jennings and others react to the Bucks’ huge comeback win
The Celtics extended their nine-point lead to 93-79 with 10 minutes and 16 seconds left, but a handful of threes from Holiday, Connaughton and Wesley Matthews sparked a Bucks rally as they cut them to 101-99 with 4: 08 left.
“To make up for that difference, we got some guys to do some games,” Budenholzer said of that stretch. “I thought Giannis as a playmaker, Giannis as a backside host has led us to some good things.
“I thought Grayson (Allen) also had some good plays in the quarter. Everyone contributed. Giannis hit a couple of three-pointers. It takes a little bit of everything to turn a 13- or 14-point game.
“So we’ve got to try not to put ourselves in that position but just do our best and you’ve got to get some shots, you’ve got to get some three-pointers and thank Grayson, PC and Wes for their play and shot making.”
It appeared Boston had stemmed the tide after Al Horford shared Antetokounmpo and Connaughton for a tip slam from a missed jumper by Jaylen Brown to make it 105-99, 2-13.
But Antetokounmpo hit a catch-and-shoot three-pointer to get his team back in the game and then came down and stole the ball from Smart to set up Holiday’s exploits.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the 14-point lead for Boston’s biggest fourth quarter of a playoff game has been the same in the last 25 postseasons.
Antetokounmpo scored 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting and also grabbed 11 rebounds. Holiday scored 24 points on 9-of-24 shooting and had eight assists and rebounds, while Portis came off the bench and had 14 on 4-of-14 shooting. He also had 15 rebounds. Connaughton added 13 points from the bench.
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Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points on 12-of-29 shooting while Brown had 26. Smart finished at 15, while Daniel Theis (11) and Derrick White (nine) provided sparks off the bench. Horford was limited to eight points on 4-of-7 shooting.
For about 4 ½ minutes, the Bucks pushed onto the offensive glass, spinning fiercely on defense while hitting a couple of three-pointers to gradually reduce a seven-point deficit to one at halftime – only to watch the Celtics ended the third quarter with runs of 11. 4 and 10-2 to lead by up to a dozen before finally going into the fourth quarter at 86-77.
Brown went 6 for 10 from the field – including several hard counters – to score 16 points and keep the Bucks at a distance. The Celtics countered the Bucks’ intensity to keep the visitors from taking the lead, with Tatum and Brown twice scoring their own misses to stifle the Bucks’ momentum.
As the quarter progressed, Boston got timely baskets from Smart and Theis to complement Brown, and Antetokounmpo needed five points in the last 65 seconds to keep the Celtics from running away with it.
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Milwaukee opened the game with 3 of their first 4 threes in the first two minutes of play – but then went 1 for 12 for the rest of the half as Boston went 54-47 at the break.
The Celtics also grabbed 11 points from nine Bucks turnovers while turning it over just twice as they led by as many 13 in the first half. Antetokounmpo scored 19 of the Bucks’ points while Holiday added nine, but the other six players who saw play time combined for just 19 points.
And after a 3-on-4 start to the game, Holiday missed his last five shots of the first half for Milwaukee.
It was a different story for the Celtics, who took 16 points from Tatum but saw White and Theis contribute nine each from the bench.
The even scoring — and ball movement (14 assists to 21 baskets) — helped the Celtics run 7-0, 11-0 in the second quarter to take control of the half after the Bucks led 28-26 after that had gone First Quarter. The early threes helped Milwaukee build a seven-point lead and they retained a slight advantage on the scoreboard throughout the first 12 minutes, but the game turned in the second quarter when White and Theis pinned the Celtics’ try in the second.
Khris Middleton injury update: Bucks forward making progress
Khris Middleton remained a spectator with a left knee injury during games as the Bucks progressed through the series against the Celtics, but he has been able to come on the court in recent days.
“We feel good and optimistic,” said Budenholzer before the game on Wednesday. “But, you know, it’s kind of the same update as the last few days.”
Middleton sprained his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in Game 2 against Chicago in the first round on April 20. He was immediately eliminated from the first four games of the Boston series, but Budenholzer would not do so for the remainder of the series against the Celtics. Game 6 takes place in Milwaukee on Friday. If a Game 7 is necessary, it will be on Sunday.