BOSTON — The Bucks are heading back to Milwaukee one loss away from another first-round exit in the NBA playoffs, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s poor Game 5 performance is the reason why.
The superstar forward scored a personal series-low 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting in the Bucks’ 92-87 loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Milwaukee didn’t play well offensively as a whole in Game 5, but it still had a chance to steal a win on the road in the fourth quarter.
But instead of taking command of the game and looking for his shot, Antetokounmpo was passive in crunch time. The Greek Freak made just one shot in the second half and deferred to inferior teammates in the fourth quarter when the Bucks’ deficit was just single digits.
Three shot attempts in the fourth quarter of a pivotal Game 5 (and just 10 overall) simply is unacceptable for a player many experts would consider a top-5 or top-10 talent in the league.
Antetokounmpo needs to realize if he’s not getting the ball late in the game he needs to demand it. His coach, Joe Prunty, also deserves some blame for not getting the team’s best player more shots, especially when Antetokounmpo entered Tuesday shooting a stellar 62 percent in the series.
“We all have to take responsibility in that, finding different spots to put him in,” Prunty said after the game. “I think Giannis is one of the most aggressive drivers in the game, trying to get downhill. I think he gets bodied quite a bit. I’m concerned about how much they’re pushing. I want him to keep attacking, regardless of how physical the game may be, but in the grand scheme of things, I’ll just say it’s on all of us.
“In regards to finding better opportunities for shots, we have to make sure he’s getting the ball. For us, I want to make sure we get a quality possession every time. We’ve got multiple guys that are capable of knocking down shots. I don’t want to turn this into ‘hey, we have to do this for Giannis.’ We know how we need to play. I think there were too many possessions in general where we didn’t play — for example, the over dribbling.”
Antetokounmpo hadn’t played poorly in this series until Game 5. He won Game 4 with a late tip-in and was averaging 27.7 points per game in the series entering Tuesday. But with the Bucks needing a win in Boston to improve their chances of advancing to the second round for the first time since 2001, their best player was nowhere to be found.
Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye is a really good defender, but there’s no reason a rookie drafted in the second round should be able to body Antetokounmpo and make him pass the ball instead of being aggressive late in the game.
The Bucks need a huge performance from Antetokounmpo in Game 6 on Thursday night or Milwaukee will suffer another frustrating end to a season that began with so much promise.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports