This Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks was by far the best playoff series we have seen this year and it is quite sad to see this series end.
Every single game contained high-level basketball being played and it seemed like every night that these two teams played, a new playoff record was being set either by a team or an individual on the floor.
The Celtics ultimately came out on top, beating the defending NBA champions in seven games, but even without Khris Middleton on the floor, the Bucks still put up a really strong fight because of the greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Not only did Antetokunmpo become the first player in NBA history with at least 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in a single postseason series, but he also had yet another amazing performance in the Bucks’ Game 7 loss on Sunday.
Finishing with 25 points, 20 rebounds and 9 assists, Giannis became the fifth player in NBA history to record at least 25 points, 20 rebounds and 5 assists in consecutive playoff games, joining Wilt Chamberlain, who did so twice, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, all of which are in the Hall-of-Fame.
Without Middleton on the floor, Giannis Antetokounmpo really elevated his game and did everything he could to try and get the Bucks back to the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately for them, it was not enough.
The Celtics looked great on the defensive-end of the floor in this series and with Jayson Tatum continuing to grow into a superstar in this league, they have everything they need to reach and possibly win the NBA Finals this season.
Both the Bucks and Celtics are two championship-worthy teams, but the Celtics are the ones who will be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. Here is what we learned looking back on this series between the two heavyweights in the Eastern Conference.
Boston’s Offense Is Run Out On The Perimeter
One of the biggest takeaways from this Bucks-Celtics series has to be how well Boston shot the ball from the perimeter.
In these seven games against Milwaukee, the Celtics shot 110-292 (37.7%) as a team from three-point range and they averaged about 15.7 made three-pointers per game.
During the regular season, Boston averaged just 13.2 threes per game and shot just 35.6% from the perimeter.
Getting this kind of production from the three-point line in the playoffs has been vital for the Celtics, especially since the Bucks had their way in terms of attacking the paint and outscoring Boston in the paint.
For the series, the Celtics finished +159 from the three-point line, which is actually kind of scary when you think about this.
Boston made 53 more three-pointers than Milwaukee in this Eastern Conference Semifinals series and they got production from a number of different players out on the perimeter.
Jayson Tatum led the way with 26 made threes in this series and Jaylen Brown had 21, but Grant Williams hit 17 big three-pointers, Al Horford made 14 and Marcus Smart made 13. Perhaps the biggest contributions from deep though came from Derrick White (8) and Payton Pritchard (8) off-the-bench.
The Celtics are shooting lights out from three-point range right now and heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, they are going to need to continue finding production and outscoring their opponents from deep in order to reach the NBA Finals.
Grant Williams Is The Key To Success For Celtics
The play of Jayson Tatum in this series against the Bucks was huge for Boston, but Grant Williams really came into his own in numerous different ways.
Not only did he improve defensively given that he drew the assignment of having to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Williams’ confidence has grown exponentially since the start of these playoffs.
The 23-year-old forward is confident in his abilities to defend anyone on the floor after taking on the two-time league-MVP and on offense, Grant Williams seemed to find his three-point shot in this series.
As mentioned before, the Celtics made 110 total threes against Milwaukee and Williams accounted for 17 of these, the third-most on the team. He shot 37.8% from long-range in this series and moving forward, Boston is going to continue to rely on him to hit some big shots from the perimeter.
Defensively, he will once again draw some tough matchups, as he will likely have to guard Jimmy Butler and possibly Tyler Herro at times against the Miami Heat.
Tatum and Brown can only do so much for the Celtics, which is why someone else is going to have to step up if they are to have a shot at winning a title. So far this postseason, Williams has been that third guy to step up for them and while his numbers may not always show it, Grant Williams is one of the most impactful players on Boston’s roster right now.
Khris Middleton Is A Lot More Important To Milwaukee Than Noted
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday are fantastic players and you have to respect the effort they gave in this series against Boston.
These two All-Stars were the only source of production for the Bucks on offense and they gave it their all trying to carry the Bucks back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Ultimately, the Celtics had too many weapons for Milwaukee to try and stop and on offense, Antetokounmpo and Holiday were the only consistent contributors.
Grayson Allen was non-existent in this series, Brook Lopez could not hit anything outside the paint against Boston and Bobby Portis really struggled to find his shot as well.
Khris Middleton is an All-Star and we all know what he is capable of on the offensive-end of the floor given his performances in the NBA Finals last season, but his value to this franchise has been downplayed at times because of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dominance on the offensive-end of the floor.
If this Eastern Conference Semifinals series taught us anything, it is that Middleton cannot be replaced in Milwaukee and that he is an essential part of their championship formula.
When Giannis was off the floor against Boston, the Bucks really had nobody to turn to for immediate production, especially since Jrue Holiday was being guarded by this season’s Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart.
The idea that the Bucks should “move on” from Khris Middleton is foolish and all seven games of this Bucks-Celtics series proves how valuable Middleton really is.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism