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BOSTON — For 34 minutes, 14 seconds, the Milwaukee Bucks could not erase the cushion the Boston Celtics had built in the second quarter — until Bobby Portis put back Giannis Antetokounmpo's missed free throw with 11.4 seconds remaining to give his team a one-point lead in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
The Celtics did not score again, and the Bucks capitalized on Boston's epic collapse to steal a 110-107 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series. Milwaukee will host a potential closeout Game 6 at home on Friday.
"We made it tougher on ourselves now," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after the worst collapse of his inaugural playoffs. "It'll make it sweeter when we bounce back, but we gave up a golden opportunity."
Portis grabbed seven of his team's 17 offensive rebounds, and the last one was the final dagger in a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback. The Celtics led 93-79 two minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Bucks made all six of their 3-point attempts in the final 10 minutes, including back-to-back triples from Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday that tied the game, 105-105, with 42 seconds remaining.
Two Jayson Tatum free throws gave Boston the lead back, and Antetokounmpo got to the line on the other end just inside of the 15-second mark. He made the first and missed the second. When Boston's Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown collided on the rebound attempt, the ball found Portis for the game-winner.
"It's all about pride in that moment, and they out-prided us in that moment," said Smart.
BOBBY PORTIS GRABS THE MISSED FREE THROW TO PUT MILWAUKEE ON TOP!
11.4 left on TNT pic.twitter.com/eeBFKZq0yQ
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2022
Holiday sealed the win with two stops in the final 11 seconds. He blocked Smart's go-ahead layup attempt, and after two Pat Connaughton free throws, he picked Smart's pocket to prevent a game-tying 3.
TWO HUGE DEFENSIVE PLAYS BY JRUE 🔒🔒
BUCKS GO UP 3-2. pic.twitter.com/qx678hYiLf
— NBA (@NBA) May 12, 2022
Neither Tatum nor Brown, who combined to score 60 points for the Celtics, touched the ball on Boston's final two possessions. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 40 points and 11 rebounds.
Tatum could not find his rhythm from distance, shorting his attempts, but Brown found him for an alley-oop that capped an 11-0 run and gave Boston a 51-38 lead with 3:47 remaining in the second quarter. The cushion was enough to withstand a late rally from Antetokounmpo and hold a seven-point lead at the half.
Milwaukee’s push continued to start the third quarter, and a Brook Lopez jump shot cut the deficit to 60-59 inside of five minutes. The bucket came after three offensive rebounds, so Udoka called a timeout to rip his team's fortitude on the glass. Boston was settling for 3-pointers early in the shot clock, complaining about calls when they tried to attack the basket and letting both impact the defensive effort.
So, Smart gave the Celtics a spark, as he so often does, pushing the lead back to two possessions on an open 3-pointer, and Brown took over the remainder of the third quarter. The one-time All-Star scored 12 in less than three minutes to finish with 16 in the quarter and push Boston's lead back to double digits.
The Bucks would not stop coming, even as the Celtics extended the lead to 14 early in the fourth quarter. Connaughton's 3-pointer with 7:34 left cut Boston's lead to 98-90, forcing another Udoka timeout and tirade. Still, Holiday's jumper slashed the deficit to 101-99 as the four-minute mark approached.
Tatum responded with a jumper of his own. Smart drew a charge from Antetokounmpo. Al Horford dunked an errant Brown shot, and the Celtics were back up 105-99 with a little more than two minutes remaining. They did not score another basket — or grab another rebound — in a heartbreaking loss to the reigning champs.
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