On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks battled the Boston Celtics for control of the Eastern Conference semifinals when the two teams met for Game 5 of the series.
For a good chunk of the contest, it looked like the Celtics were in control and that they would prevail.
They led 54-47 at halftime, and they stretched their advantage to 93-79 early in the fourth quarter, making the Bucks look like chopped liver.
But then Giannis Antetokounmpo happened.
He finished the game with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range, along with 11 rebounds, as the Bucks staged an incredible comeback to hand the Celtics a deflating loss at home, 110-107.
Antetokounmpo asserted himself in the last few minutes when the game was being decided, and it was proof that, although he may not be this season’s MVP, he is still the best basketball player in the world.
The Greek Freak Bore Down When It Mattered
Midway through the fourth quarter, just when the Bucks seemed headed for defeat, they started fighting back and launched a rally.
When Wesley Matthews hit a 3-pointer with 6:04 left, Boston’s lead was down to four, and it was clear that this was now a competitive ballgame.
Holiday then hit a jumper to cut the deficit to two, and at the other end, Antetokounmpo blocked a layup attempt by Al Horford, Game 4’s hero.
With 1:40 left, with Boston’s lead back up to six, the Greek Freak hit a 3-pointer off another offensive rebound to make it a one-possession game.
He followed it with a steal that led to a Holiday 3-pointer that tied the contest.
Then with 14.2 seconds left and the Bucks down by two, he was fouled on a drive to the basket.
He made the first free throw, and although he missed the second, Bobby Portis got the rebound and scored to send Milwaukee to a 3-2 series advantage.
— Back2Back (@B2BFR) May 12, 2022
These are the plays that MVPs make down the stretch of ballgames, especially ballgames as big as Game 5 was, and especially against opponents as vaunted as the Celtics.
This may have been a team win for Milwaukee, but Antetokounmpo was as big a part of it as anyone.
Antetokounmpo Has Been Making A Habit Of This Type Of Play
Suddenly, the memories of Antetokounmpo not being able to take over against the Toronto Raptors in 2019 and the Miami Heat in 2020 are becoming a seemingly distant memory.
In Game 3, which was also hotly contested down the stretch, he made the go-ahead basket, a layup, with 44 seconds left to help give the Bucks a 103-101 win and a 2-1 series lead.
It capped another monster game from him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 3:
— Megan Schroeder (9 to go) (@BrewCrewMegan) May 7, 2022
Without Khris Middleton, many expected the Bucks to lose this series simply due to a lack of firepower.
Instead, they are on the verge of winning it and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With apologies to Nikola Jokic, Antetokounmpo is the real MVP of the NBA, and he may earn the NBA Finals MVP just several weeks from now.