The Milwaukee Bucks and host Boston Celtics will be looking for consistency from their supporting cast when they battle in a tie-breaking Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series Wednesday night.
Al Horford exploded for a postseason career-high 30 points and Marcus Smart hit two clutch shots down the stretch as the Celtics evened the best-of-seven series 2-2 with a come-from-behind, 116-108 win at Milwaukee on Monday.
The teams have alternated wins and losses in the first four games, with each winning eleven on the opponents’ home floor.
The Bucks opened the series with a 101-89 win at Boston in a game in which Bobby Portis (15) and Grayson Allen combined for 26 points. Meanwhile, the Celtics didn’t get more than 12 points from anyone other than Jayson Tatum, who had 21.
But things changed in Game 2, when Grant Williams bombed in six 3-pointers off the Boston bench in a difference-making performance in a 109-86 triumph. This time, it was the Bucks’ supporting cast that struggled, with Pat Connaughton accounting for 13 of their mere 20 bench points.
As usual, Giannis Antetokounmpo (42 points in Game 3) and Tatum (30 in Game 4) were driving forces in wins for their respective clubs in Milwaukee, but again, their teams were only as successful as their supporting casts.
Brook Lopez, Connaughton and Portis combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds in Milwaukee’s 103-101 win in Game 3, before Horford stole the show for the Celtics in Game 4.
In an effort to find help for Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has given Portis and Allen each two starts in the series. Portis scored 15 and 13 points in his starts, while Allen went scoreless in Game 3 before a seven-point outing Monday.
If there’s going to be another change for Game 5, the Gregg Popovich disciple promised nobody other than his team would know about it until they were required by league rules to be informed.
“I’ve come up with a new policy: I’m not going to comment on my starting lineup to the media … ever,” Budenholzer said Monday. “(The Celtics will) find out 30 (minutes before game time); you’ll find out at 30.
“I just have no comment on my starting lineup for the rest of my coaching career. Bam.”
While injured Khris Middleton remains out of the Milwaukee lineup, the Celtics would like to get center Robert Williams back for Game 5. He appears headed for a game-time decision after having his surgically repaired left knee act up on him leading into Game 4.
As it turned out, no Williams meant more minutes for Horford, who turned back the clock not only to play 42 minutes but also with a postseason career-best five 3-pointers in seven attempts.
Horford admitted his inspiration came from the two-point loss two days earlier.
“We felt that at the end of Game 3 that we were in a position to win the game and we didn’t,” he said. “I was just really locked in (for Game 4). I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. Just come out and we were gonna do whatever it took. It was one of those types of nights.”
–Field Level Mean