Milwaukee gave it a good shake, but ultimately couldn’t get over the line in Boston in Game 5 on Tuesday. The Celtics managed to hold off their fast-finishing opponents thanks largely to their work on the defensive end, where they kept their opponents to just 36.8% shooting from the field.
For the Bucks, it was the regulars doing the heavy lifting. Giannis Antetokounmpo took only ten shots, but contributed ten boards, nine assists, two steals and two blocks to go with his 16 points. Khris Middleton continued his excellent series with 23 points.
Three keys to the game
Can Middleton continue his great form? - Middleton has been one of the major reasons that the Bucks have been able to keep up with the Celtics this series. After averaging 20.1 points (46.6% shooting from the field, 35.9% shooting from 3-point range) throughout the regular season, he has taken his game to another level in the playoffs to average 25 points. His long-range shooting has been sensational, with a huge 60% of his six 3-point attempts per game connecting.
Second chance points - Milwaukee haven’t been a good team on the boards all season, and it’s starting to really haunt them in the playoffs. They’re allowing Boston to score 16.4 second-chance points so far in the series, which is in stark contrast to the Bucks' 6.6 per game. They need to make a concerted effort to keep the Celtics off the offensive glass if they want to work their way back into this series.
Giannis’ shot attempts - The Greek Freak averaged 17.8 shot attempts through the first four games of his series, shooting at 62% and scoring 27.8 points a night in this time. He played more of a facilitatory role in Game 5, dishing out a series-high nine assists, but he will need to be more aggressive in terms of getting his own shots on Thursday. Horford defended him well, but ten shots isn’t enough for the best player in the contest, and expect him to take closer to 20 in this game.
Matchup to watch
Al Horford vs Giannis Antetokounmpo - This has been and will remain the most important matchup in this series. Both have been very good, though Giannis has the capability to improve his output from his last couple of games. He is averaging 25.4 points per game this postseason, yet just 20.7 in his past three outings. His value is judged by more than just his scoring though, and he is also contributing 8.8 boards, 7.0 assists, 1.6 steals and a block per night.
At the other end, Horford has been excellent in averaging 18.2 points per game on 54.6% shooting, well above his 12.9-point season average. He has also added 8.6 rebounds (including 14 on Tuesday), 3.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks.
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup
PG - Eric Bledsoe | SG - Malcolm Brogdon | SF - Khris Middleton | PF - Giannis Antetokounpo | C - Tyler Zeller
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG - Terry Rozier | SG - Jaylen Brown | SF - Jayson Tatum | PF - Semi Ojeleye | C - Al Horford
Expect a big game from the Greek Freak. After a Game 5 where he was probably too timid offensively, expect his number of shot attempts to nearly double. In four regular-season games against Boston this season he averaged 33.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him put up similar numbers in a bid to keep his side in the series.
The over/under points total is set at 199.5, and the under is a good bet here. Though the first four games of the series went over, defenses tightened up in Game 5 and only 179 points were scored as a result. With the series on the line, this game will be played in a similar fashion.
This one will come down to the wire. So far this series has followed the fairly predictable theme of the home side winning, and with their backs up against the wall, and the best player in the series at their disposal, Milwaukee will continue this trend.
Defense will be paramount, and neither side will reach 100 points as each team locks in at the defensive end and takes their time on offense. Giannis, alongside a vastly improved Middleton and a dangerous Jabari Parker coming off the bench, will keep their Bucks in the series with a hard-fought 97-94 win at home.
The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.