By MyFM's Jake Archer - Well, this series was never going to be easy. After the Celtics took the first two games in Boston, the Bucks protected home court and tied the series at 2. Overall, things had seemed fairly even the whole way as both teams had good and bad moments through the first four matchups. Now they'd play a Game 5 back in Boston and only one team could establish themselves as having the upper hand. Of course it was a battle the whole way, but it ended up being the Celtics who came out victorious with a 92-87 win. They are only one game away from ending this series and they know they are on the verge of a pretty awesome accomplishment considering how short-handed they are.
Before the game, the C's got a huge boost by learning that Marcus Smart would return to the court for the first time since mid-March. Smart has gone through a lot of adversity this season both on and off the court and nothing was bigger than when he learned his mother is battling cancer a short time ago. The guard was ready to get back out on the floor and play for her, and he certainly made her proud. After sustaining a right thumb injury on a hustle play a few months ago, Smart was wearing a protective splint on his hand. It didn't seem to bother him much, as he was all over the place as he usually is in Celtics wins. With nine points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks, the veteran led by example and provided a boost to help propel his squad. It's hard not to love this guy.
The Bucks were still without John Henson, who sat out his third straight game due to back soreness. Zeller started again in his place and Brogdon got the nod over Tony Snell. Brandon Jennings, Sterling Brown and Jason Terry did not see any action at all. Boston switched up their starting lineup by taking Aron Baynes (who has struggled during this series) out for Semi Ojeleye. Greg Monroe, Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele were the only Celtics to stay on the bench for the whole game.
Right out of the gate, Boston jumped out to a lead. They cracked down on defense and took a 23-15 lead into the second quarter. It was the worst full period of the series for Milwaukee and put them in a bad position. Heading into the half, the Celtics had extended the lead to 11. Milwaukee was steady in the third but it wasn't until Boston got up by 16 that they started to chip away. They used a 12-2 run at one point to cut the lead to eight. With seven and a half minutes left that they finally had clawed back to make it 74-70. Boston pushed the lead back out to 84-79 a few minutes later but it felt like the Bucks were going to give them a scare at the least. When a loose ball hit the floor, Smart dove into a pile with three Milwaukee Bucks and came up with the ball. He somehow got the ball out to Al Horford, who scored to make it 86-79 with less than 30 seconds remaining.
The Bucks battled back again to make it 87-84, and things felt tight. Boston was able to hit their free throws down the stretch however, and they secured the win. Milwaukee really hadn't shot the ball well at all in this game (37 percent down from an NBA playoff leading 54 percent through the first four games) and Boston finally got Giannis to have issues. Ojeleye proved to be pretty good guarding "The Greek Freak" and hopefully he'll draw that assignment moving forward. With all that, and the impact Marcus Smart made on both ends, the Celtics had enough things going their way to get the win.
Boston got another big night from Al Horford who scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked two shots. In this low-scoring affair, the only other Celtics took get into double figures were Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris. Rozier and Eric Bledsoe continued their feud with some pushing and shoving in the third quarter and had to be seperated. Rozier was hit with a technical foul while Bledsoe was assessed a flagrant. For Milwaukee, Khris Middleton led the way again. The forward scored 23 points, grabbed three boards, and racked up two assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo had an unusually quiet game with only 16 points. Bledsoe, Jabari Parker and Shabazz Muhammad were the other Bucks who scored in double digits.
Now the two teams will head back to Milwaukee to see if the Bucks can continue the trend of home teams winning every game in the series. If not, Boston will close them out and head to the next round. Hopefully they can end this thing now, but it'll be interesting to see how the Bucks respond at home. The Celtics certainly wanted it more in Game 5 and the physicality will probably stay high between these two teams. Game 6 tips off on Thursday night at 8 p.m.