This series has been a total back and forth “zig-zag” series with neither the Milwaukee Bucks nor the Boston Celtics being able to string together consecutive wins — but I think that finally changes tonight.
Even though this series is tied 2-2, you could easily argue that the Celtics should be up 3-1 with a chance to close out the series tonight.
The Bucks’ only convincing win was in Game 1, but I take that game with a grain of salt. It was an early start time and the Celtics were coming in on a long layoff after sweeping the Brooklyn Nets.
The Bucks are a great defensive team — a stark contrast to the Nets who didn’t play any defense — and the Celtics were caught off guard and punched in the mouth.
The Bucks’ other win in Game 3 was shrouded by controversy. Jayson Tatum had one of the worst games of his career, only shooting 4-19 from the field. Despite all of that, the Celtics had the lead in the final minute before some questionable officiating led to the Bucks narrowly escaping with a 2-point victory.
The Celtics are the more versatile team that is capable of winning in more ways. They won Game 2 by bombing away from 3-point land and won Game 4 in a more traditionally “Celtics style”; with quality ball movement, efficient shot making and hard-nosed defense in the fourth quarter.
Celtics Need Massive Home Win
The Celtics have been the better, more complete team the entire series and I look for them to take care of business in this crucial Game 5 at home tonight.
This is likely the most pivotal game of the series as historically with a series tied 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win the series 72% of the time.
Coming into this series, I felt like the loss of Khris Middleton would be too much for the Bucks to overcome over the course of seven games and that has proven to be true.
Can Giannis Carry the Torch Alone?
While Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the series, the Celtics have the second, third, fifth and sixth best players in Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford — Boston is the much deeper team.
All of the pressure is on Giannis in this game because the Bucks’ role players have all come up small on the road outside of Bobby Portis.
Brook Lopez has some staggering road/home splits, averaging only 4.8 points per on on the road compared to 17 points at home.
Grayson Allen moved back into the starting lineup last game, but it’s clear Milwaukee misses Middleton’s length and defense on the perimeter — especially in the fourth quarter where the Bucks have been outscored by a whopping 77-51 point margin over the last two games.
The Bucks were so reliant on the 3-point shot during the regular season, but they haven’t won the 3-point battle since Game 1.
The Celtics have a lot more margin for error because of their depth. They can afford for one player to have a bad game because the others are more than capable of picking up the slack.
Antetokounmpo does not have that luxury, especially not on the road. Tatum had one of the worst shooting games of his career in Game 3, yet the Celtics were within striking distance in the final minute. In Game 2 when Giannis had an off night, the Bucks lost by 23 in a wire-to-wire blowout that was over by halftime.
The Bucks had the Celtics on the ropes in Game 4 with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. I believe when they blew that lead, it was the end of this series.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have yet to both have a complete game and Al Horford’s emergence over the last two games, averaging 26 points per game while shooting 60% from the field, has added another potent offensive scoring threat.
Boston knows the pressure that dropping a home game brings after losing Game 1, and after fighting tooth and nail to get home-court advantage back, I do not see the Celtics relinquishing it again.
I look for the Celtics to play their most complete game of the series and take a 3-2 lead with a resounding Game 5 win.
I do not see the 5.5-point spread coming into play, I have the Celtics winning this game by double digits. If the Bucks continue to struggle from 3-point land, this game could resemble the 23-point blowout in Game 2.