BOSTON -- We are at that point in this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series where X’s and O’s have little value.
There’s very little either team can do at this point that would come as a complete shock to the other, and make sense at the same time.
“It’s nothing new anymore,” said Jayson Tatum. “We’ve played them four games in a row. We know what we are going to do, they know what we are going to do.”
MORE ON THE SERIES
So what’s left?
“It’s just effort,” Tatum said. “Who wants it more.”
So far in this series, desire to win has been directly tied with the game’s location.
Boston won an overtime nail-biter in Game 1 at the TD Garden and followed that up with another win in Game 2. The Bucks returned home and delivered a decisive Game 3 beatdown, then survived a late Celtics surge in Game 4 to hold on for a two-point win that included some late-game controversy.
“The biggest thing that you learn as you go further into this is transition matters so much more; and rebounding matters so much more,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Making the right reads on offense matters so much more and those are the things that are somewhat within your control.”
And control is exactly what’s at stake tonight for both teams, knowing the loser will be in the first true must-win scenario when these two square off again in Milwaukee for Game 6.
The significance of tonight is not lost on any of the Celtics players.
“Got to protect home court,” said Jaylen Brown. “Got to protect our house. They felt comfortable the last two games until those last few quarters, and that’s how we want to continue to play.”
Boston fell behind by 20 points (65-45) in the third quarter of Game 4, then steadily chipped away at the Bucks lead and eventually went ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play on a jumper by Tatum.
But Milwaukee eventually came away with the victory following a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5.1 seconds to play.
Boston had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime, but Marcus Morris’ fadeaway jumper was off the mark as the final horn sounded.
The Celtics had practice on Monday and watched some video. But at this point, there’s very little they will do or see that will dramatically change their outlook and approach to tonight’s game other than the prospect of Marcus Smart (right thumb) suiting up tonight. That seemed a long shot until late Monday afternoon when the Celtics listed him as “questionable” for the game, the first time since his right thumb was surgically repaired last month that he hasn't been ruled out.
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Regardless of who steps on the floor, the Celtics know at this point there are no secrets among these two teams.
“It becomes a game of inches now,” Brown said. “We played this team what, three or four times in the regular season, now it’s game five of the playoffs. We both know. Through the film, like we both know what each team wants to do and get out of it. Now it’s just who is going to come out on top.”