In a loss, there’s always one stat that sticks out. For Boston in a Game 5 heartbreaker, it was offensive rebounds. Seventeen of them, with one at the very end that perfectly illustrates the Celtics having the game in their hands and letting it slip out of their fingers.
With the Celtics up two with 14.2 seconds to play, Grant Williams fouled Giannis Antetokounmpo and sent him to the line for two free throws. Antetokounmpo would hit the first to neatly cap off a 40-point night, but the second clanked off the right side of the rim.
Well, and then this happened:
In a quarter where the Celtics would give up nine second chance points (20 for the entire game on those 17 offensive rebounds), it was that last one by Bobby Portis — with Marcus Smart getting two hands on the ball and Jaylen Brown inadvertently knocking it out of them — that would prove to be the final straw in the Boston loss.
“We beat ourselves right there. That’s the game right there. Seventeen offensive rebounds. (Bobby Portis) had seven and the biggest one of the night,” Smart said after the game. “That’s it. We can’t allow that. We’re doing our job and we got to continue to do it. It’s a tough one, but we gotta move on.”
“We crashed. Just a super unlucky play. Don’t know what else to tell you,” Brown concurred.
Seventeen offensive rebounds. One. Seven. With the value of hindsight now, they’re an eye sore in the box score, a glaring blemish in a game that head coach Ime Udoka said, “we were playing extremely well for three and a half quarters.”
Five of them came off blocked shots where you just don’t know where the ball is going to end up. Another five were missed long rebounds after a missed Bucks three-pointer. A handful were the meaningless tips where Brook Lopez might get a hand on it but it went nowhere after that.
Ime Udoka on losing the 4th quarter lead: "Offensive rebounds, that's the story of the game... a large majority of those came in the second half." pic.twitter.com/VMYS7DYsIs— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 12, 2022
“Offensive rebounds. Really, that’s the story of the game. They had 17 for 20 second chance points. A large majority of those came in the second half. They had six in the first half, so we were doing a good job as far as that,” Udoka said. “To give up 14, especially on those specific plays...they got kick out threes. Some were long rebounds so they were a little tougher. We gotta find bodies obviously on those and the free throw one stands out.”
After the Celtics won Game 4 going small in the fourth quarter, you knew that they’d run that lineup out again in Game 5 and risk the consequences against the Bucks giant frontcourt. Unfortunately for Boston, those offensive rebounds combined with Milwaukee hitting all six of their threes in the fourth and an unfavorable bounce doomed them in the end of Game 5.