How Pat Connaughton has given the Milwaukee Bucks an essential spark

May 7, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The most significant question for the Milwaukee Bucks entering their second round series against the Boston Celtics was who would step up in Khris Middleton’s absence.

Through five games, a few players have noticeably helped the cause. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on a tear with his two-way dominance, Jrue Holiday has made some insanely clutch plays on both sides of the basketball, and Bobby Portis has given the Bucks a nice boost in the second unit. Among the bunch, one player that has stepped up mightily is Pat Connaughton, who has taken his game up a notch coming off the bench in this series.

How Pat Connaughton has given the Milwaukee Bucks an essential spark off the bench against the Boston Celtics

After struggling to find his footing throughout the Milwaukee Bucks’ first round series against the Chicago Bulls, Connaughton has come out firing in round two.

Offensively, the guard is averaging 11.2 points per contest, which trails only Antetokoumpo (33.6) and Holiday (21.8) for the series. Connaughton has been insanely efficient in the five games played thus far, having shot 55.3 percent from the floor and a blistering 48 percent from 3-point range on five attempts per contest. With Middleton unavailable due to that Grade 2 MCL sprain, Milwaukee needed someone else to help shoulder the scoring load, and Connaughton has gladly stepped up.

Connaughton’s 3-point shooting is a prominent reason why he has been so successful during this series, especially when being paired with Milwaukee’s stars. Grayson Allen thrived in the opening round due to his ability to capitalize off passes from Antetokounmpo and Holiday, but he has not been able to replicate that success in round two. Thankfully, Connaughton has, as he is shooting a solid 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) from three off passes from Holiday and 4-of-9 (44.4) percent from the perimeter off passes from Antetokounmpo, per Given how poorly Milwaukee has shot the long ball in this series, Connaughton has provided a huge boost in that regard, especially off the passes from these two. With the Celtics prioritizing slowing down Milwaukee’s two leading stars, Connaughton has gotten his share of looks, and he is making that defense pay.

Looking closer, Connaughton has particularly thrived in the five fourth quarters during the series to this point. Connaughton is Milwaukee’s third-leading scorer behind Antetokounmpo and Holiday in the fourth quarter of this series, averaging 4.2 points per quarter. The guard’s efficiency during this span has been off the charts, as he has shot a stellar 7-of-10 (70 percent) from the floor, including 5-of-8 (62.8 percent) from 3-point territory to score 21 points in 39 total minutes. His clutch gene was on display in Milwaukee’s Game 5 win on the road on Wednesday as Connaughton hit both of his 3-point attempts in the quarter while also sinking two huge free throws late.

Connaughton proved to be Milwaukee’s unsung playoff hero last season with plenty of memorable moments, and he has been doing so once again this year. With the Milwaukee Bucks needing their role players to step up, Connaughton has answered the call.

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With the Bucks leading the series 3-2 and heading back home with a chance to close out this series tonight, hopefully Connaughton can keep this stretch of outstanding basketball going.