The Boston Celtics had Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the palm of their hands. They had controlled the pace for the majority of the game and were within seconds of pulling ahead 3-2 in the series going back to Milwaukee. Alas, that didn’t happen. The Bucks made the right plays when they needed to, didn’t lose composure when Boston applied pressure, and now, the Celtics will be facing elimination on May 13, 2022, in Game 6.
The one question that remains is, who or what is to blame for what happened? Of course, there are multiple factors that go into how a team collapses in the final minutes of a potentially series-swinging playoff game like the Celtics just did. However, after the game, Ime Udoka pinned the loss on one particular disadvantage in Boston’s case when asked about it: offensive rebounding.
“That’s the story of the game,” Udoka said. “They have 17 for 26 (second chance) points and the large majority of those came in the second half. They only had six in the first half, so we were doing a good job as far as that. To give up 14, especially on those specific plays where they got kickout threes, some were long rebounds so they were a little bit tougher but, we got to find bodies obviously on those. And then the free throw one stands out.”
Giving up that many offensive rebounds and second-chance points are a recipe for disaster. Especially if you’re playing the reigning NBA champions.
Boston Botched Rebounding the Last Missed Free Throw
The free throw instance that Udoka is referring to is the one where Bucks forward Bobby Portis rebounded a missed free throw by Giannis Antetokounmpo to which he then proceeded to convert the putback to put the Bucks up 108-107 with 11.4 seconds to go.
But was this because Portis created good positioning or was it because he was at the right place at the right time? Upon further inspection. it appears Portis and the Bucks were lucky the ball bounced their way. The NBA’s Phantom Cam revealed that Marcus Smart had the ball in his hands before Jaylen Brown unintentionally knocked it out, tipping it right into Portis’ hands, and the rest was history.
The entire sequence was a comedy of errors. While those happen from time to time, it could not have happened at a worse time for the Celtics since it led to the Bucks taking the lead, and not too long afterward, the game.
The only glass-half-full take for the Celtics at this point is that Game 5 could have turned out worse for them. Just ask the Golden State Warriors. The Memphis Grizzlies blew them out from start to finish in their Game 5. Then again, at least the Warriors are up in their series. Boston could have said the same thing had it not been for the botched free throw rebound.
Jaylen Brown Called Portis Play ‘Super Unlucky’
After Game 5 ended, Brown went on the record saying that Portis’ free throw putback was “just a super unlucky play.”
Seeing the sequence in slow motion makes it hard not to think that’s exactly what happened. However, in spite of Boston’s bad luck leading to such a demoralizing loss, Brown still vocalized his faith that the team can pull through by stating that if anyone can, this Boston team can.
Winning in Milwaukee will not be easy to do a second time, but both Games 3 and 4 were tight contests between the Bucks and the Celtics. So if there’s one thing to expect on Boston’s end, it’s that they will go down swinging.