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BOSTON – Just two nights after pulling off a remarkable Game 4 comeback win in Milwaukee, the Boston Celtics had the tables turned on them. Boston saw a 14-point fourth-quarter lead disappear Wednesday night at TD Garden, as the Bucks got their revenge in the form of a 110-107 Game 5 win, giving them a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The C’s offense went cold at the wrong time, the Bucks began dominating the offensive boards, and the crunch-time plays just didn’t go Boston’s way.
Boston had two chances to seal the deal during the final 15 seconds, but the defending champs delivered two championship-level plays – one on each end. The first one came when Bobby Portis corralled Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game-tying free-throw attempt and tossed it in for a go-ahead put-back layup. And the second was when Jrue Holiday blocked Marcus Smart’s go-ahead driving layup attempt, which all but secured the win for Milwaukee.
There was no beating around the bush during the Celtics’ postgame interviews: this one hurt. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t recover.
The Bucks didn’t let their pain linger after suffering a stunning Game 4 loss on their home court. And now it’s Boston’s turn to take a page out of Milwaukee’s book.
“They did to us what we did to them the last game,” Marcus Smart acknowledged. “We just got to come back and keep swinging. We've got to fight back. We don’t have time to worry about how we lost. We don’t have time to worry about, 'Ah we lost and it hurts.' We don't have time for that. It hurts. It definitely hurts, but we don’t have time to feel it. We gotta go into the next one and really, it's simple: if you’re not ready to come play the next game, then don’t step on the court. That’s how you get ready and move on.”
Rather than buckle under the pain from such a heartbreaking loss, the Celtics can use it to their advantage. They know that they outplayed the Bucks for 85 percent of the game and that they just let one slip away. And they also know that this series is far from over, especially given their track record of bouncing back this season.
“It's not a series-ending loss,” head coach Ime Udoka stated. “We have a chance to go make up for it … It's going to be tougher now. We gotta go get two in a row. But what we've done throughout the series and throughout the season is bounce back when we've been tested, and even in this series. It was an opportunity tonight but gotta go to Milwaukee, take it one game at a time, and try to bring it back here."
The theme of this series has been punch-counterpunch. The winning team has alternated every game, and the Celtics are hoping that that theme will stay alive so that their season can also stay alive.
“Good basketball teams respond to adversity and we’ve been doing it all season,” said Brown, who scored 26 points and combined with Jayson Tatum for 60 points. “Next game presents a new challenge, the biggest challenge of the year, to be honest. Mentally, physically, emotionally, it puts a challenge on every component. So, we’ve gotta regroup and get our spirit to the point where we can go in and get a victory in Milwaukee.”
They'll get a chance to do so with their season on the line Friday night.