Grant Williams, hot-shooting Celtics blow out Bucks to win Game 7
Grant Williams put in long hours in the gym to transform his body and game since entering the NBA out of Tennessee. Known in college as an old-school four who banged inside, he dropped weight and worked on adding a consistent 3-pointer, evolving his game into that of a modern small-ball four.
Milwaukee’s plan for Game 7: Keep Brook Lopez near the paint, have him help off Williams on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and dare Williams (and other role players) to beat them from 3. For a quarter, it looked like it might work — then the script flipped.
Williams finished with seven 3-pointers and a team-high 27 points.
The Celtics as a team shot 22-of-55 from 3 (40%), many of those clean looks on kick-outs after Tatum drove into the paint. Meanwhile, after the first quarter, the Bucks might have missed the water if they fell out of a boat — they finished 4-of-33 from 3, 12.1%.
That shooting disparity was the story in what was, at times, an ugly game (as Game 7s tend to be). Boston pulled away in the third quarter and ran Milwaukee out of the TD Garden, winning Game 7 109-81.
There will be a new NBA champion this year.
The Celtics will hop on a flight to Miami to take on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Tuesday night. This is the fourth time Boston has made the conference finals in the last six seasons.
Milwaukee heads into an offseason wondering “what if Khris Middleton had been healthy?” They also face some challenges with a top-heavy roster in need of depth and shooting, including questions such as can they bring back Pat Connaughton? Should they bring back Grayson Allen (he is owed $8.5 million next season)?
This was Boston’s best performance of the series — they looked like a team that should start planning a championship parade. The Bucks and Celtics produced the highest level of play of any second-round series, but when they needed another gear the Celtics found it. Maybe Miami can reach this level if challenged. Maybe the Suns can if they make it through to the Finals.
But right now, no team is playing better than the Boston Celtics.
Those Celtics also learned a lesson from Game 5, when they were up 14 in the fourth quarter and still lost the game. Boston did not take its foot off the gas on Sunday; instead, it fed off the crowd and turned the game into a blowout.
In addition to the Grant Williams game (he broke Stephen Curry’s record for most 3-pointers attempted in a Game 7 with 18), the Celtics got 23 points and 8 assists from Jayson Tatum, who was critical as a facilitator and screen setter in this game. Jaylen Brown added 19 points, and Payton Pritchard joined the party with 14 off the bench.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was nothing short of brilliant through the first half of Game 7. Over the course of this series, he emphatically answered whether he is the best player in the game today. He finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists — and this was an off day for him.
Jrue Holiday had 21 points but took 21 shots to get there. Brook Lopez had a brilliant first half and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Celtics took him out of the game in the second half.
The Bucks raced out to a 13-6 lead to open the game, with Antetokounmpo accounting for every point. The Bucks felt more ready for the moment — they have been in big games before — and started the night knocking down their shots, including an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer. But that shooting luck changed as the half wore on and the Bucks missed their final 11 3-pointers of the first half (a streak that stretched out to 13). The Celtics were up 48-43 at the half
Then there was this play to end the first half.
All season long, the officials have not called fouls — and especially not shooting fouls — on those kinds of halfcourt heaves. Even up against the clock. They did so here and it gave the Celtics a little more momentum heading into the half. But that was not what decided the game.
The Celtics were the better team on Sunday — and they may be the better team all the way to the NBA Finals.