Top-seeded Bucks show they’re championship caliber
The Bucks were relentless against the Celtics in their five-game series.
MILWAUKEE — One possession, five offensive rebounds.
With less than two minutes to go in the third quarter Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum, the Celtics appeared to hit rock bottom when they couldn’t manage to grab hold of the ball after five missed Milwaukee Bucks shots on a single possession.
Eric Bledsoe misses a driving layup? Bledsoe beats Kyrie Irving to the rebound.
Bledsoe drives back to the basket and misses again? George Hill comes down with the ball.
Pat Connaughton hoists a 3 that bounces off the back of the rim? Bledsoe saves the ball from going out of bounds and the Bucks retain possession.
Bledsoe misfires on a corner 3? Nikola Mirotic is the one to come up with the ball this time.
Mirotic fires a 3 that clanks off the rim? Al Horford picks up a loose ball foul in the fight for the rebound.
Five missed shots, five Bucks boards.
“It’s a momentum swing,’’ said Bledsoe, who finished with 18 points in Milwaukee’s 116-91 series-clinching win. “Even though we weren’t scoring, our crowd was in it.’’
“I think it speaks to some of the guys who were laying it all on the line and doing everything they could to maintain and build the lead,’’ added coach Mike Budenholzer. “The competitive spirit of the group was impressive.’’
The nearly minute-long stretch, which resulted in a standing ovation from the fans, was emblematic of just how relentless the Bucks were in their five-game series against the Celtics. After getting rocked in Game 1, with skepticism surrounding their championship aspirations starting to mount, they proceeded to squash any doubts about the team’s capability.
In its four wins, Milwaukee outscored Boston by 65 points. The top-seeded Bucks showed off their superstar, their depth, and their poise. Despite trailing after the first quarter of Games 2-4, despite their lack of postseason experience, and despite the never-ending conversation about the talent of Boston’s roster, the Bucks stayed true to the habits they’ve been building all year long.
“Credit them, credit their coaches, credit their players,’’ coach Brad Stevens said. “They’re better than we are. They earned that. It was clear throughout a five-game series.’’
There will certainly be a deserved celebration. After all, it’s been almost two decades since the team last had a chance to advance to the NBA Finals. The light festivities started on the court following the final buzzer and continued to the locker room with 21 Savage’s “Can’t Leave Without It’’ blasting through the speakers.
But there was no shower of green and white confetti dropping from the ceiling, nor was there any ostentatious yelling and screaming.
The Bucks have their sights on something bigger. Their trip to the conference finals is just another step toward a larger goal.
“Our season is still going,’’ shooting guard Khris Middleton said. “We still got a lot of work to do. We’re going to be facing a good team, whoever it is, in the next round. Enjoy tonight. Maybe a little bit tomorrow. But we’ll start getting ready for the next series.’’
“We’re playing for each other, for the city of Milwaukee, for the franchise,’’ added Bledsoe. “We’re having fun.’’
Up next for the Bucks will be either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors currently lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for Thursday.
Regardless of their next opponent, however, the Bucks are confident in the product they’ve built. That Game 1 loss ended up being a fluke for this 60-win team, now 8-1 this postseason.
“Hats off to them,’’ Stevens said. “They are one hell of a basketball team.’’