After a wild Sunday that featured a pair of Game 7s, NBA fans can finally take a deep breath. The Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals after a grueling series with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Dallas Mavericks shocked the world with a 33-point win on the road at the Phoenix Suns.
Magic Johnson couldn’t get enough of the Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks series
Just because his Lakers failed to qualify for the postseason doesn’t mean Johnson isn’t glued to the playoffs. The Hall of Fame point guard appears to be taking great pleasure in the NBA postseason, but it’s that Celtics/Bucks series that had him on edge.
With Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Boston’s Jayson Tatum leading the way, with very little predictability taking place in the series. Antetokounmpo was the one constant. He proved to be the best player in the series on a short-handed team that played all seven games without its best shooter in Khris Middleton.
Tatum was inconsistent but came up big when it counted most. His 46-point effort in Game 6 when the Celtics desperately needed a win on the road to stay alive, allowed Boston to return home for Game 7. There, Boston fed off the crowd after a slow start and pulled away for the 109-81 win. Boston now faces the Miami Heat in a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals.
Prior to that Game 7, Johnson admitted how much he enjoyed the series.
“After Sunday I’m going to be upset that this series will be over,” he tweeted after Game 6. “It’s one of the best 7 game series I’ve seen in a long time!”
The Celtics vs. Bucks series brought back memories of Magic Johnson and old-school basketball
The Celtics and Bucks have had some epic playoff series in the past, but they wouldn’t be considered rivals. One would never have known that judging by this series.
The two teams went at it like old-school 1980s basketball. Outside of the number of three-pointers launched, this series was a reminder of how basketball was 35 years ago. It literally had the blood, sweat, and tears those hard-nosed playoff series in the ’80s had. The physicality the Celtics and Bucks showed was like no other in today’s NBA.
Game 6 was peak ’80s. It was two stars squaring off and taking over, a la Magic and Larry Bird. Antetokounmpo finished with 44 points. Tatum had 46.
“Basketball fans, how many times have we seen two superstars play great in the same game?!” Magic posted on Twitter after the epic performances by the two players. “Giannis also put on a show scoring 44 points and 20 rebounds.”
Players on both sides were exhausted after the Celtics pulled out the win on the road. Giannis forced the Celtics to become physical with his dominant play inside the paint.
No lead was safe. The Celtics blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter in a pivotal Game 5. They nearly did it again in Game 6 but held on for the victory.
In the end, the Celtics outlasted the Bucks in one of the best playoff series in recent memory
When it was over, the Celtics’ depth proved to be the difference. Without Middleton, the Bucks didn’t have another consistent scorer to back the Greek Freak.
While Giannis was the most consistent and best player in the series, the Celtics got step-up efforts from several players. Veteran Al Horford came up big in a Game 4 win on the road to even the series at two games apiece. The Boston center scored 30 points on 11-for-14 shooting.
Grant Williams came up big in Games 2 and Game 7. In the series finale, he poured in a game-high 27 points and finished with even three-pointers. Marcus Smart also came up big in the series.
The same can’t be said for the Bucks.
Middleton’s absence put added pressure on Antetokounmpo, who welcomed it. Jrue Holiday was good. Brook Lopez was inconsistent. Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton had big baskets but didn’t play well enough in stretches.
It was a heck of a series, bringing back memories of old-school basketball.