The Bucks’ Sport 5 win over the Celtics was outlined by 10 seconds of Jrue Vacation’s defensive heroics


BOSTON — The connection between Giannis Antetokounmpo and teammate Khris Middleton, now 9 years in, is well-known for its depth and belief.

However about that Jrue Holiday relationship …

“It is blooming, it is blooming!” Antetokounmpo mentioned after the Milwaukee Bucks completed off a jaw-dropping show of clutch play in stealing a 110-107 Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday evening to seize a 3-2 collection lead.

“I really like him.”

Antetokounmpo, the area over his proper eye caked in pores and skin glue after quite a few makes an attempt to shut an oozing laceration that plagued him all through the dramatic fourth quarter, had wrapped Vacation up in a hug moments after the ultimate buzzer — and rightly so.

The Bucks traded three first-round picks for Vacation in 2020 — a deal for a then-30-year-old guard that was questioned on the time — and finally signed him to a $135 million extension final 12 months. These felt like bargains after he delivered one other in what has change into a protracted record of defensive gems. On this case, one a diamond, the opposite a ruby.

The nuanced greatness of the play he made with eight seconds left and the Bucks up by one level — after a dramatic putback by Bobby Portis that deserves its personal novella — is tough to speak even for those who noticed it after which replayed it.

Vacation was defending Jaylen Brown, who scored 16 of his 26 factors within the third quarter. However the Celtics had spent the fourth attacking the simpler mark, Pat Connaughton, and that is the place Marcus Smart went for a possible game-winning shot. It had labored, form of, as a result of Good was within the means of getting a clear look when Vacation broke off from Brown.

What occurred subsequent is all will, instincts and fortune favoring the ready. Vacation mentioned within the second he believed Good would not have the ability to see if Brown was open. Vacation was proper; in reality, Good by no means even noticed the blur sporting No. 21 that cleanly ripped the shot out of his palms earlier than it might enter Celtics lore as a recreation winner.

However as an alternative of swatting it and risking knocking the ball out of bounds solely to stick with Boston and one other probability to win, Vacation grabbed the ball in midair to attempt to hold possession. As he landed from his leap, he was near the baseline and needed to dance to manage the ball and keep in bounds. However Vacation gathered the ball and managed to throw it off of Good to retain possession and end off some of the swish thefts you may ever see.

Good, the just-named NBA Defensive Participant of the 12 months, was speechless.

“It isn’t like I deliberate it out or something,” Vacation mentioned. “I simply went after it; it was instinctual.”

The Celtics nonetheless had an opportunity to tie the rating with 5.9 seconds left, down three factors after Vacation’s pressured turnover created two free throws for very important separation for Connaughton. However Vacation iced Good once more, choosing his pocket as he raced up the ground on the lookout for a method to get the Celtics a 3-pointer. Inside seconds, Vacation was in Antetokounmpo’s arms, and the Bucks have been one win from taking this large collection.

“He is a winner. Jrue Vacation is a winner,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned. “Ask any participant on this league, any coach on this league, he is a winner.”

All of this overlooks that Vacation scored eight of his 24 factors within the fourth quarter, together with a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left that tied the rating to complete a 14-point Bucks comeback. With Middleton sidelined by a sprained knee, the Bucks have wanted Vacation’s offense in addition to his protection.

Antetokounmpo was the sport’s dominant power, as he scored 40 factors with 11 rebounds. The Bucks have been on the ropes a handful of occasions, and Antetokounmpo’s basket assaults saved them within the recreation. Portis was the difference-maker along with his putback, which got here after Brown and Good misplaced a rebound when each went for it in a debacle that would find yourself being some of the fateful moments in your complete NBA playoffs.

Final season, the defining second of the Bucks’ run to the title got here when Kevin Durant‘s basket on the finish of the fourth quarter in Sport 7 solely pressured additional time for the Brooklyn Nets as a result of his toe was on the 3-point line. This season, it may very well be that Portis ended up with that unlikely offensive rebound and was in a position to put it again.

However even with Portis’ late bucket and Antetokounmpo’s brilliance, Vacation was the hero.

“We’re in Boston, we’re down 14 within the fourth quarter and folks would say that all the things’s in opposition to us,” Vacation mentioned. “However we come collectively. I really feel like we have accomplished that a number of occasions and we stay and die by that. Having one another’s backs, simply wrapping arms and going up there combating — actually, simply leaving it on the road.”

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