With 10:16 remaining in Game 5 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics’ backup point guard Payton Pritchard drained a fade-away jumper that extended the Celtics’ lead to 14 (79-93).
It was the most significant advantage of the night at TD Garden on Wednesday night, but it evaporated by the 42.4-second mark in the fourth quarter.
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Smart on Losing Game 5: ‘It Hurts, it Definitely Hurts’
Then, Celtics big man Al Horford’s thunderous put-back dunk temporarily kept the Bucks at bay by six points (105-99) with 2:12 left to play before the Celtics got too comfortable with the lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday drained a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game at 105 before Boston committed two critical blunders, which ultimately sealed its fate in the form of a 110-107 defeat.
The Bucks lead the series, 3-2. After the game, Celtics point guard Marcus Smart had a lot to say about the final frame, in particular, one of those mistakes that ultimately cost Boston the game.
“It hurts, it definitely hurts,” Smart said moments after Game 5. “But, we ain’t got time to feel it. Got to go on to the next one, and really it’s simple. If you’re not ready to come to play the next game, then don’t step onto that court.”
Smart: ‘J.T. Was Supposed to Come up’
Perhaps, Marcus had his teammate, Jayson Tatum, in mind when he commented on team preparation ahead of Game 6. Clinging onto a one-point lead after Antetokounmpo drained one of two free throws, the Celtics gave up a crucial rebound, leading to a go-ahead layup by Bucks’ Bobby Portis, which gave Milwaukee a one-point lead.
Still, with 11.4 seconds left, Boston had another opportunity to pull ahead. Out of the Celtics’ timeout, Smart collected the inbound pass from Derrick White and drove into the teeth of the Bucks’ defense, where Holiday waited patiently before snatching the ball away from Marcus and ricocheted it off of Smart’s body, out of bounce and into a new possession for the Bucks.
However, according to this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, the play wasn’t intended for Smart.
“The play was actually: J.T. (Jayson Tatum) was supposed to come up and get it but everybody was standing around,” Smart explained. “We had no timeouts and there’s a five-second count on the way. So, I just got open and tried to make a play, Jrue (Holiday) did a good job of helping. That’s it, made a good play.”
Smart Looks Ahead to Game 6: ‘We have to Respond’
Still, Marcus isn’t putting all of the blame for losing Game 5 on the shoulders of the Celtics’ three-time All-Star.
“We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Smart said. “The mentality was there to go win the game. Just fell short a little short. Didn’t execute, like I said, when we were supposed to and when it mattered the most. They did.”
What kind of lessons can you take from this?
“A lot of them. The main one: offensive rebound,” Smart replied. “We box out, we win that game, and that’s what it ultimately comes down to. They did a good job of getting their team extra shots, and they hit them, and they made us pay. So, I got to do a better job on that end. Clean that up, and that’s just what it is. They’re the defending champs, they made some championship plays. Now, we’ve got to respond.”
The Celtics, on the brink of elimination, will face the Bucks in Game 6 at Milwaukee Friday night.