The first round series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks was forced into a Game 7 on the back of the Bucks protecting home court in Game 6. Aussies Aron Baynes and the Milwaukee duo of Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova were set to square off in a win or go home situation at the TD Garden in Boston. With each of the first six games going in favour of the home court team, Boston were 4 point favourites heading in.
With John Henson sidelined for the fifth straight game with back soreness, Maker was announced to be in the starting lineup for the second game in a row. Once again, as had been the case in the last two games, Baynes was set to come off the bench as Celtics head coach Brad Stevens opted to go with Semi Ojeleye in an attempt to counter Giannis Antetokounmpo's impact.
Before Game 2 in the series, The Pick and Roll asked Stevens about Baynes' role in the series and whether he would continue to start for Boston.
“Baynes is a guy that’s going to start for us. We’ll continue to rely heavily on him whether that’s for 10 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes.”
Boston did lean heavily on Baynes, and he has continued to cause damage to Milwaukee especially on the offensive glass.
The game started off positively for Milwaukee, as they ran up a quick 15-10 lead, Maker contributing an athletic tip dunk and a three-pointer to spark the Bucks into a rare first quarter lead in Boston. From that moment on, the wheels entirely fell off, as the Celtics went on a furious 20-2 run to end the period.
Baynes saw 4:04 of court time in the first quarter and racked up six points and two rebounds, his final bucket coming as time expired to give the Celtics a 13-point lead heading into the first break.
The second quarter could hardly be described as beautiful basketball, as Milwaukee tried to claw back into the contest but were met with resistance from Boston. The Bucks were able to close to within two points before eventually heading into the half trailing by six, 44-50. Brimming with confidence from his recent run of good play, Maker flashed his seldom-witnessed potential as a distributor. Thon dished out four assists in the second quarter, three of which came on Jabari Parker baskets. He would end the night with those four assists, tying a career-high for the second year big man, in a possible flash of yet another wrinkle in Maker's future arsenal.
Much like the first quarter, the third ended in a flurry for Boston. A late run pushing the margin back out to 14 at the end of the quarter to give the feeling that the series had potentially finally been broken open. In what was arguably the most pivotal play on the night, it was Baynes who once again was able to assert his influence and visibly slump the heads of his Bucks rivals.
In what looked like a routine defensive rebound opportunity for Milwaukee, Baynes snuck in between two Bucks to snatch the ball away and feed Marcus Morris in the corner, resulting in Morris getting fouled on a made shot. Instead of the ball being in Milwaukee's hands with a chance to cut it back to double digits, it ballooned out to 13 and in a single sequence felt like it ended a run.
The last quarter surprisingly carried little drama, as the Celtics cruised to an eventual 112-96 victory. Baynes once again, destroying Milwaukee early in the fourth with three more offensive rebounds and a made hook shot in the first four minutes. Boston completed the job. They outlasted Milwaukee and advance to face Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Baynes finished with eight points and seven rebounds, Maker with five points, six rebounds and four assists, while Dellavedova was a non-factor on the night for Milwaukee, going scoreless in seven minutes of court time.
One Aussie moves on, as two bite the dust.
Baynes was huge on the night, and one gets the feeling he will be called back into the starting lineup to deal with All-Star big man Joel Embiid in the second round.
The Boston Celtics face the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow, 1 May 2018 at 1000hrs AEST.