The Milwaukee Bucks are advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
The top-ranked Bucks finished off the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Wednesday night, 116-91, to wrap up their second-round playoff series. They’ll now move on to their first conference finals since 2001. Although Game 5 was an elimination game for the Celtics, it was one-sided almost from the beginning as Boston vastly struggled to shoot, converting on just 31.5 percent of its field-goal attempts.
Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while Kyrie Irving drastically struggled — again — on 6-of-17 shooting from the field while going 1-of-7 from 3-point range for 15 points.
It’ll be a long offseason for the Celtics as they await Irving’s free agency decision and figure out which direction they need to head into in order to take that next step into becoming a championship contender.
Meanwhile, the Bucks will await the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers-Toronto Raptors series with Game 6 taking place on Thursday night.
Here are a few takeaways from the Bucks’ series-closing Game 5 victory:
Irving stinks it up on offense
We all know that the Celtics have been up and down all season long. However, after their first-round sweep of a pesky Indiana Pacers squad and a convincing Game 1 defeat over the Bucks at Fiserv Forum, a lot of people were sipping on the Celtics’ Kool-Aid.
However, it became readily apparent — especially in Game 5 — that the Celtics’ offense was one dysfunctional unit. While the Celtics struggled as a whole, the spotlight was entirely on Irving — the self-proclaimed leader of Boston. As the one member of this squad who has actually won a championship ring, one would assume that Irving would lead the team in the right direction in an elimination game — except he did the exact opposite.
His final numbers were atrocious, but his shot selection was even worse. He repeatedly took ill-advised shots, many of them contested by much taller defenders such as Antetokounmpo, and he started out the first half shooting 5-for-17 — putting the Celtics in a 13-point hole they would never recover from at halftime.
The veteran point guard’s night was summarized perfectly by this air ball:
Irving converted on 25-of-85 field-goal attempts (30.1 percent) and 7-of-32 (21.8 percent) from 3-point range in the final four games of the series — all Celtics losses.
If this is the series that is going to cement Irving’s legacy in Boston, it did — for all of the wrong reasons.
Bucks win despite Giannis not having huge impact
Although Giannis’ final numbers were rather solid, we all know those aren’t near what the Greek Freak is capable of putting up. Furthermore, the final stat line is completely misleading as the Bucks dominated this game throughout — even when Antetokounmpo wasn’t doing much.
During the first half, Giannis scored just six points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field to go along with six assists. Yet, the Bucks still led by 13 points at halftime as the Celtics converted on just 26 percent of their field-goal attempts in the opening half.
Long story short, it was the Bucks’ supporting cast along with their stifling defense that won them this game. Six other Bucks scored in double figures, including three players off the bench, led by George Hill’s 16 points. Khris Middleton also had a sensational all-around game with his 19-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance.
If Antetokounmpo receives this type of support from his teammates, this Milwaukee squad will remain a very hard team to beat — even for the Golden State Warriors.
Celtics came out defeated from the get-go
While the Celtics were technically still in the playoffs when Game 5 tipped off, the majority of the team had apparently already checked out after their Game 4 loss on Monday night.
The energy from this Celtics squad was lethargic from the beginning and, with the exception of Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart, everybody had packed it in.
In a trend that continued throughout this series and finally culminated with their Game 5 defeat, Boston players refused to move the ball around to create easy shots for their teammates. Entering this game, Boston was averaging 22 fewer passes and 4.5 fewer assists in the postseason than they averaged during the regular season.
It ended up as no surprise when the Celtics shot 26 percent from the field in the first half before ending their miserable night converting on 31.2 percent of their field-goal attempts and a horrid 17.9 percent of their 3-point attempts.
The lack of a true leader and alpha on this team was a major problem throughout the regular season — and it was readily apparent with the Celtics’ demise in Game 5 on national television.