Milwaukee Bucks’ championship pedigree on full display in Game 5

May 11, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 11, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Anyone that knows me well enough (or even just follows my nonsense tweets) knows that I’m not much for things like “momentum” and the unquantifiable things that people use in sports. I’m throwing all of that out the window when it comes to championship swagger because whatever that is, the Milwaukee Bucks showed it down the stretch of Game 5.

I was already sort of buying into this idea throughout the season, specifically after a few clutch wins right after the All-Star break, but a game like this essentially confirmed it for me. Championship-level teams grind out wins like that in the playoffs and that’s exactly what the Bucks are.

The Milwaukee Bucks showed their championship pedigree in a clutch Game 5 win

Call it recency bias (they did blow a lead in Game 4 and nearly did in Game 3 as well) but the Bucks were not supposed to win that game. They were down nine going into the final frame and trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth.

With just over two minutes to go, Al Horford flew in like an armored truck with wings for a putback dunk. In the process, Pat Connaughton accidentally elbowed Giannis Antetokounmpo in the face and left him bloodied. The TD Garden crowd was going bananas, it felt like the Bucks weren’t going to get enough stops or generate enough offense to get things much closer than that.

And the Bucks said, “Yeah, cool, we’re winning anyway.”

Bobby Portis missed an open corner 3, continuing his shooting woes from behind the arc, but Wesley Matthews outfoxed the Celtics for an offensive board. Hit Antetokounmpo at the top of the arc and the reigning Finals MVP — with blood streaming down his face — nails an in-rhythm 3 to cut the lead in half.

Just under 90 seconds left, Jayson Tatum catches the ball at the left elbow after getting a switch onto Connaughton. Takes a patented side-step jumper…. misses off the front rim. Antetokounmpo grabs the board and brings it up the floor. He hits Portis on the wing, flips to Connaughton, and slips to the hoop. Connaughton hits him in stride and he loses the handle on the way up. Can’t get the tip to go. Another empty possession.

Under a minute to go and Marcus Smart sets up a pick-and-roll with Horford. Portis comes up to hedge, it’s likely too high as Smart splits it and drives middle. However, as he brings the ball up on the drive, he loses the handle and into the waiting hands of Antetokounmpo, who goes the other way.

In transition with the Celtics’ defense scrambled, Antetokounmpo hits Portis on the wing again. As he lines up to take the 3, Grant Williams flies in with a fantastic close-out. Portis side steps, Horford comes out to close, and Portis swings it to the top of the arc for an open Jrue Holiday. Cash. Tied at 105.

After a Portis foul on Tatum that sent him to the line, he calmly knocked down two free throws and put the Celtics back in front by two.

Antetokounmpo then drew a foul on Williams as he drove to the basket. Celtics still had one to give, so with 24 seconds left and 17 on the shot clock, the Bucks reset.

Antetokounmpo went at Williams again, this time he’s foul on the way up for a layup. He made the first to cut the deficit to one. He missed the second, but as it’s coming down, Smart and Jaylen Brown (they’re teammates, by the way) fight each other for the board. It falls into Portis’ hands and he lays it in. Bucks up one.

On the ensuing inbound play, Smart starts from the baseline and tries to use the pin down from Brown but Connaughton blows it up. The ball comes into Smart and he’s forced to drive baseline. Holiday knows Smart isn’t going to pass in that situation and helps off of Brown for the ridiculous block while having the presence of mind to control the ball and throw it off of Smart.

Bucks inbound it to Connaughton, he knocks down arguably the two most important free throws of his career. Five-point-nine seconds to go. Bucks up three.

As Horford comes up to receive the pass from Smart inbounding, Tatum cuts in front which causes Portis to run into Wesley Matthews and knocks the 35-year-old to the ground. Horford receives the pass and flips it back to Smart. Tatum is frantically signaling for the ball. Derrick White is pointing at an open Tatum as Matthews struggles to get to his feet.

But as Smart struggles with his dribble, Holiday is there again. This time he picks Smart’s pocket.

Game over.

Every one of those plays down the stretch featured a player that was a part of the Bucks’ championship core last season. Portis with the clutch offensive board and putback. Connaughton knocked down two free throws and played great defense (please play him more). Antetokounmpo hit a huge 3 and got to the line. Holiday, who struggled with his shot all game and series, hit a massive 3 in addition to two of the most clutch defensive plays you’ll see (on the recently-named Defensive Player of the Year, no less!).

It hasn’t been perfect in this series for the Bucks. It feels like it never is. But they know how to grind out wins when it seems like they’re out of it. That’s two road wins in this series against a hostile Celtics crowd cheering on a fantastic Celtics team.

The championship swagger, pedigree, whatever you want to call it is very real and the Milwaukee Bucks have it.

Next. 3 questions before Game 5 between Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. dark

Now they’ll need to put it to good use in Game 6 at home to close out this series and advance to their third Conference Final in four years.