The Boston Celtics fell down by 10 points in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. In a winner-take-all Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup, things were not looking good for the home team.
That’s when things changed big time. Led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and a stingy defense, Boston came out on top going away. In the end, Boston eliminated the defending champion Bucks by the score of 109-81 — ending Giannis Antetokounmpo’s season in the process and setting up an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Miami Heat.
Below, we look at four big takeaways from the Boston Celtics huge 28-point Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Grant Williams adds to the Boston Celtics’ supporting cast
We focused on this earlier in the Boston Celtics’ playoff run. The inconsistent nature of this former first-round pick from Tennessee. That was evident in the previous two matchups leading up to Game 7 with Williams scoring a total of two points on 0-of-6 shooting in nearly 59 minutes of action.
Still a dependable force on defense, Williams provided a ton of scoring in a starting role against the Bucks on Sunday. More than that, he proved to be ultra aggressive in a game that the Celtics needed it.
- Grant Williams stats (Game 7): 27 points, 6 rebounds, 10-of-22 shooting, 7-of-18 3-point
With Boston up 13 early in the fourth quarter and Jayson Tatum resting, Williams continued with that aggressive style. It included nailing a wide-open three-pointer to give Boston a 16 point lead with his seventh made trey of the afternoon. He was a major difference-maker here.
Milwaukee Bucks missed Khris Middleton
As unassuming star during his nine years in Milwaukee, it goes without saying that Middleton has proven to be a huge cog in the team’s success. This became evident in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the defending champion Bucks eliminated while Middleton was sidelined to a knee injury.
The inability of anyone to step up behind Giannis Antetokounmpo is the major takeaway here. Averaging nearly 20 points on 39% shooting from distance since the start of the 2017-18 season, Middleton’s absence was felt in a big way.
Take Game 7 as an example. Jrue Holiday shot just 3-of-10 from the field in the first half before picking it up some in the final two quarters. The point guard entered Sunday’s game shooting 35% from the field in the series. He’s not a No. 2-scoring option on a contending team. Middleton is. That was the difference as the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated.
Boston Celtics defense remains elite
Milwaukee took a 26-20 lead after the first quarter. It went on to score 38 points in the next two quarters combined before finishing the game with 81 points (55 in final three quarters). Sure Giannis struggled shooting the ball. As noted above, Holiday didn’t do much himelf. The absence of Middleton had an impact for Milwaukee, too.
But it’s actually time to give the Celtics’ top-ranked defense some credit. Boston held Milwaukee to 37% shooting, including 4-of-33 from three-point range. At one point, the Bucks had missed 14 consecutive three-pointers. They had 20 assists and 13 turnovers — a ratio not indicative of success.
With reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart leading the way, others such as the aforementioned Grant Williams as well as Jaylen Brown stepped up defensively. It’s going to be a major key heading into the Eastern Conference Finals against a Miami Heat team that has had trouble scoring at times during the postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything possible for the Milwaukee Bucks
The two-time NBA MVP entered Game 7 in the midst of an historical four-game stretch that saw him average 40 points to go with 15 rebounds and north of five assists in his previous four outings.
Giannis started out strong early, hitting on 6-of-9 while scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds througt he first 18 minutes of the game.
After that, it was a complete disaster for the game’s best player. Giannis finished the game hitting on just four of his final 17 shots. It became clear that Antetokounmpo just didn’t have the gas to take on a much more talented team without his running partner in the mix. It’s hard to blame him given the effort he provided during the seven-game series.