Game 3: Bucks 103, Celtics 101 | Bucks lead 2-1
Who was the guy? Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks needed every bucket of Antetokounmpo’s 42 points, which was topped off with a paint score through Celtics power forward Grant Williams that represented the final lead change of the game after the Celtics overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Giannis clutch Bucket!! pic.twitter.com/3WfTvXfWEP
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 7, 2022
Antetokounmpo getting off to a strong start was critical. In the first halves of Games 1 and 2, Antetokounmpo was held to 5-of-16 shooting in the paint. He was much better early, making 6-of-10 of his field goals in the paint in the first half of Game 3. And he got back to making plays for others at a high level in the third quarter, mixing 11 of his own points with four assists that led to 10 more Bucks points; those 21 third-quarter points created by Antetokounmpo were more than the 17 points that the entire Celtics team scored in the period. Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. Overall, Antetokounmpo scored or assisted on 61 of Milwaukee’s 103 points in Game 3. And he gave us a shimmy that was probably strong enough to switch the direction of the rivers running through Lake Michigan.
We like to move it, move it. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/JXG53EjmyD
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 7, 2022
What was the key here? Transition offense for Milwaukee, which has cost the Celtics in two games. The Celtics had to have felt great at halftime, as they led a game through two quarters 50-46 despite shooting a woeful 33.3 percent from the field. Milwaukee was held to 39.1 percent field goals, had eight turnovers at halftime and fouled excessively in the second quarter. Antetokounmpo, center Brook Lopez and shooting guard Grayson Allen (starting in place of Bobby Portis, who shifted to the bench to open the offense up) all had three fouls entering the third quarter. But the Bucks overwhelmed the Celtics 18-0 in fast-break points in the third quarter alone, a period that saw the Bucks outscore the Celtics 34-17 overall. Jrue Holiday may have had one of the least efficient games of his career (25 points, 11-of-30 field goals, no free throws), but all 10 of his fast-break points came in the third quarter. The Celtics outplayed the Bucks overall, but their pitiful transition defense completely decimated their margin for error.
Key stat: 9-for-33. That was Boston’s 3-point shooting in Game 3, by far its worst in the postseason. The Celtics are not immune to horrible 3-point shooting games (they had two games this past regular season in which they failed to break 10 percent from 3), but to follow up the most prolific 3-point shooting effort in Boston postseason history (20-of-43 3s, 46.5 percent in Game 2) by making only 27.3 percent from 3 is simply ill-timed. And that was after a fourth quarter in which they made 4-of-8 3s to erase Milwaukee’s lead. The Bucks have allowed fewer than 30 3s in only one other game this postseason, which was actually a Game 2 loss to the Chicago Bulls, a game in which the Bulls made 12 of their low volume of attempts. Milwaukee showed a greater urgency in challenging the Celtics above the free-throw line in Game 3, which was a continuation of a second-half effort from Game 2 that saw Boston miss 16 of 23 second-half 3s; the Celtics made 13-of-20 first-half 3s in Game 2 to build a 25-point lead. When that effort from Milwaukee is combined with its stout interior defense, you get a sub-40 percent effort from the field.
The moment it was over: When it was determined that Al Horford’s final attempt to tie the game on a putback did not beat the game clock.
— NBA (@NBA) May 7, 2022
Milwaukee led 103-100, and Marcus Smart was at the free-throw line for two shots (more on that shortly). Smart made the first, then flawlessly executed an intentional miss. But Smart’s putback attempt was no good, and neither were follow-up attempts by Robert Williams or Horford. If Horford had another fraction of a second, there would have been overtime at Fiserv Forum. Instead, the Celtics have to win Monday night to avoid going back to Boston and facing elimination.
The moment of the game: Smart getting fouled before he could attempt a 3. The officiating was an adventure all afternoon, and it drove both coaches up a wall. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer used a first-quarter challenge for some reason on an Antetokounmpo charge drawn by Grant Williams. That wasn’t successful, and then Budenholzer was enraged when Jayson Tatum discarded Wesley Matthews on a drive at the end of the first quarter. If this were a regular-season game, crew chief Zach Zarba would have at least given Budenholzer a technical foul.
But we’re going to be discussing Boston’s last possession for a long time. Apparently, the Bucks weren’t looking to foul up 3, and Jaylen Brown retreated back out of the paint to search for a game-tying field goal. (Less discussed but still something to watch for in Last Two Minute Report: Did Brown foul Holiday?) Brown handed off to Smart, and official Sean Wright determined that Smart was in a rip through when Holiday contacted him. The emphasis on not rewarding grifters with shooting fouls this season came into play here, as this is probably not called on the floor in previous postseasons. The decision was quite unsatisfactory to Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, who also suggested his team start flopping to draw more attention to the one-man stampede that is Antetokounmpo. As if this series wasn’t already a rock fight.
Ime Udoka on the Marcus Smart play late in the 4th: “It was a foul… poor no call… Bad missed call.” pic.twitter.com/C2OATuxlL3
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 7, 2022
What can the Bucks do to win Game 4? Milwaukee’s 3-point shooting was still gross for the most part (9-of-34, 26.5 percent, which was even worse than the Celtics), but the Bucks made moves to foster better offense in Game 3 that they will hope leads to better results in Game 4. Allen started, breaking up the trio of Antetokounmpo, Lopez and Portis, with that group holding the Bucks to 60.4 points per 100 possessions in the first two games of the series. Lopez got off to a great start, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half before fading after halftime due to foul trouble. Portis was on the quiet end with only nine points off the bench. But the biggest opportunity for improvement comes from Allen, who had four fouls in nearly 26 scoreless minutes. Allen missed all three of his shots, and they were all 3-point attempts. Milwaukee has to get better shooting while it’s at home, and Allen has to help with that.
What can the Celtics do to win Game 4? Free Tatum. Boston’s top shot-taker was held to 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting. The inefficiency was profound, as Tatum missed 12 of 13 shots outside of the paint, including all six of his 3-point attempts. Tatum also didn’t get to the line at a high volume considering the number of shot attempts, making only 2 of 3 free throws. Prior to Game 3 in Milwaukee, Tatum had made at least two 3s and attempted at least five free throws in each game this postseason. It wasn’t just scoring that Tatum struggled with, as he was held to three assists while grabbing only one rebound; Tatum had recorded at least five assists in every game this postseason. Credit Matthews for being in Tatum’s grill for at least 10 of Tatum’s missed shots. Tatum was 3-of-6 in the paint, so success may have to come with him bringing a heightened level of physicality to Game 4 and seeking out that contact inside.
Bucks Worry Meter: 🦌🦌
Celtics Worry Meter: 🤬🤬🤬
Game 3: Warriors 142, Grizzlies 112 | Warriors lead 2-1
Who was the guy? Jordan Poole. The more this game played out, the better he got. When Poole entered the game in the first quarter, the Warriors were down 10 points. By time Poole subbed back out mid-second quarter, Golden State had an insurmountable lead. Then Poole scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half. Overall, Poole made a game-high 11 field goals out of 17 attempts, and the Warriors outscored the Grizzlies by a game-high 33 points in Poole’s 31:10.
What was the key here? Once the Warriors stopped turning the ball over and the Grizzlies stopped making 3s from Oracle Arena, the rout was on. The Grizzlies built a 21-8 first-quarter lead through the first 5:41 of the game. In that time, the Grizzlies made six 3s, with five of them being 25 feet or longer. Golden State had five live-ball turnovers in that span as well. From there, Golden State underwent a 25-point turnaround in the first half, with the help of a zone defense that kept the Grizzlies out of the paint and 70.3 percent shooting from the field through two quarters. But Ja Morant cut a 12-point Golden State lead to a 64-57 halftime lead after a levitating drive and a moon shot from half court that was set up by an illegal screen by Draymond Green, Golden State’s 14th turnover of the first half.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) May 8, 2022
Golden State shot “only” 57.4 percent from the field in the second half, but there were more possessions to score after only committing three turnovers after halftime. That allowed Golden State to score 78 second-half points and run away with a win.
Key stat: 63.1/53.1/90.5. That’s the field goal, 3-point and free-throw percentage of Golden State in Game 3. Forget 50-40-90 — Golden State became the second team in NBA postseason history to hit the 60-50-90 threshold in a game (the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors). The Warriors’ 142 points were the second-most in franchise history and most since 1967. And this was with Stephen Curry missing six of his eight 3s, not to mention the first-half giveaways.
The moment it was over: The Grizzlies should have felt good about being down only seven at halftime, courtesy of Morant’s half-court buzzer-beater. But then Golden State did whatit has done all series, and that’s rinse the Grizzlies in the third quarter. Memphis started the second half of Game 1 on the wrong side of a 13-5 Warriors run in the first 3:53 of the third quarter, and Memphis lost an 11-point third-quarter lead in Game 2, entering the fourth quarter tied. At least the Grizzlies had chances to win both of those games in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, Golden State got off to a 10-0 run in 110 seconds, and the Grizzlies trailed by at least 15 points for the last 22 minutes of the game.
The moment of the game: Morant’s right knee injury further mars what has been a series wrought in misfortune. With Poole applying a double team, Andrew Wiggins fouled Morant into his own backcourt with Golden State up 115-97 with 6:55 left in the game. Poole grabbed Morant’s leg, pulling it awkwardly while going for the ball. Morant left the game during the dead ball of Kyle Anderson’s two-technical foul ejection. While Morant was unhappy with Poole after the game, it is also worth noting Morant’s right knee was also hit while trying to contest Klay Thompson’s 3 to begin the second half.
In any case, it’s an unfortunate development for Morant and a Grizzlies team that already saw Dillon Brooks suspended for Game 3, Jaren Jackson Jr. struggle with fouls and efficiency, Desmond Bane trying to find his rhythm after back discomfort and usual starting center Steven Adams just now coming back from health and safety protocols.
What can the Warriors do to win Game 4? Start Otto Porter Jr. It was nice of Steve Kerr to tap rookie Jonathan Kuminga as a starter in place of the injured Gary Payton II, making him the youngest player in verified NBA postseason history to start a game. But the Warriors didn’t play well until Porter replaced Kuminga early in the first quarter, and Porter’s effectiveness led Kerr to start him over Kuminga to begin the second half. Overall, the Warriors have outscored the Grizzlies by 49 points in Porter’s 68 minutes, the best mark in this series. When Porter has been on the floor, the Grizzlies have shot 35.5 percent from the field. Defense validates lineups, and the Grizzlies haven’t figured out what to do with an assignment-sound veteran like Porter on the floor.
What can the Grizzlies do to win Game 4? The Grizzlies got the No. 2 seed in the West because they won 80 percent of the 25 games that Morant missed due to injury. In the event that they might have to steal one in Golden State with Morant unable to play, they will need to tap into what worked well without Morant, and it starts defensively. Getting Brooks back should help, and the Grizzlies have been better defensively with backup point guard Tyus Jones on the floor in place of Morant both in the postseason and the regular season. With the struggles of centers Xavier Tillman and Brandon Clarke, now might be a time to see if Adams can get back in the rotation; he’d at least help the Grizzlies on the offensive glass. Jones is elite at protecting the basketball. Memphis might be missing its only reliable bucket, so the Grizzlies will have to rely on what made them a great team this season, and that’s winning the possession battle by a significant margin to make up for their lack of shot making.
Warriors Worry Meter: 🔐
Grizzlies Worry Meter: 🆘🆘🆘
(Photo: Jeff Hanisch / USA Today)