A fourth-quarter collapse has the Boston Celtics on the brink of elimination.
The Celtics seemingly had swung momentum in their favor after a dominant fourth quarter in Game 4 evened the series at two games apiece heading back to Boston.
And through three-and-a-half quarters of Game 5, they had maintained that momentum.
With 8:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, a Payton Pritchard shot made it 98-87 Celtics.
For a team that has been stingy defensively, an 11-point lead seemed insurmountable.
Bucks Steal Crucial Win | #CHASINGHISTORY | EPISODE 20
In a pivotal Game 5, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks staged a dramatic fourth quarter comeback to stun the Boston Celtics 110-107 to take a 3-2 series lead. pic.twitter.com/FX4uGr4BjL
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2022
However, Milwaukee would close the game on a 23-9 run.
With the series heading back to Milwaukee for a potential close-out game, the Celtics will need to be locked in to keep their title hopes alive.
3. Fight For 48 Minutes
In two of the Celtics’ losses this series, they held a lead with under two minutes to play.
Boston fought back in the fourth quarter of Game 3 to take a 100-99 lead with 1:49 to play.
And Boston controlled much of Game 5, holding a 105-102 advantage with 0:49 left on the clock.
Both games saw Milwaukee come out as the victor.
Say what you will about the referees in Game 3, but the outcomes don’t change.
Ime Udoka said the refs told him Marcus Smart was making a sweeping motion on the final shot foul: "You cant say that’s a sweep, he’s going into the shot. Poor call."
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 7, 2022
Better play from the Celtics down the stretch of those two games could have drastically changed the narrative of this series.
Instead of being down 3-2, they could be up 3-2 or already resting at home after a gentleman’s sweep.
They will need to continue their solid play in Game 6 but keep their foot on the gas to close out any potential lead.
2. Slow Down Giannis
There are a few players in the league that are simply too talented or dominant to truly stop.
Giannis is one of those players.
Giannis in the 2022 playoffs so far:
Best player in the world? 👀 pic.twitter.com/wEYgcU3ZPP
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 12, 2022
This is why the Celtics should not be focused on stopping Giannis; they should merely try to slow him down.
Boston has done a decent job of that in this series.
Outside of Game 3 and Game 5, Antetokounmpo has been held to under 50% shooting.
Horford and Williams must continue to defend at a high level and their teammates must provide support in Game 6.
They cannot allow Giannis to go for 40 points on 59% shooting as they did in Game 5.
The Celtics must continue to limit transition opportunities and show a wall in front of him in the half-court.
If he starts to knock down perimeter jumpers there may be nothing that can be done.
But the Celtics need to commit to making life tough for the two-time MVP.
1. Celtics’ Star Duo Must Show Up
Come playoff time, teams typically go as their stars go.
Meaning if their superstar(s) play well, the team will play well.
Here are each player’s stat lines in Boston’s two wins this series:
- Game 2: Tatum – 29 Points (10-20 FG, 5-10 3PT, 4-5 FT), 8 Assists, 3 Rebounds
- Game 2: Brown – 30 Points (11-18 FG, 6-10 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 Assists, 6 Rebounds
- Game 4: Tatum – 30 Points (11-24 FG, 3-10 3PT, 5-6 FT), 5 Assists, 13 Rebounds
- Game 4: Brown – 18 Points (5-11 FG, 2-5 3PT, 6-6 FT), 1 Assist, 3 Rebounds
And here is each player’s stat line in Boston’s three losses:
- Game 1: Tatum – 21 Points (6-18 FG, 4-9 3PT, 5-8 FT), 6 Assists, 6 Rebounds
- Game 1: Brown – 12 Points (4-13 FG, 3-9 3PT, 1-2 FT), 4 Assists, 9 Rebounds
- Game 3: Tatum – 10 Points (4-19 FG, 0-6 3PT, 2-3 FT), 3 Assists, 1 Rebound
- Game 3: Brown – 27 Points (8-16 FG, 1-5 3PT, 10-11 FT), 4 Assists, 12 Rebounds
- Game 5: Tatum – 34 Points (12-29 FG, 2-11 3PT, 8-9 FT), 4 Assists, 6 Rebounds
- Game 5: Brown – 26 Points (9-19 FG, 3-7 3PT, 5-6 FT), 6 Assists, 8 Rebounds
Pure counting stats of course do not tell the full story.
But when Boston wins, Tatum and Brown have combined to average 53.5 points on 50.7% shooting to go along with 10 assists and 12.5 rebounds.
When Boston loses, those averages drop to 43.3 points on 37.7% shooting with 9 assists and 14 rebounds.
A team is more than just two players, but stars lead the way.
Tatum and Brown must step up on the road to force a Game 7.