There are two ways to look at Sunday’s 104-102 loss to the Bucks in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, and we won’t know which is valid until the series ends.
The first is that the Celtics let a golden opportunity evaporate when Marcus Morris back-rimmed a baseline jumper at the buzzer that would’ve forced overtime. Given Boston’s difficulty scoring while fielding a diminished lineup, the C’s can’t afford to let potential victories slip away.
The other is that the Bucks hit the C’s with their best punch, on their home court, and still nearly blew a 20-point lead. When Jayson Tatum’s jumper gave the C’s a one-point lead in the final minute, the Celtics had sent a message that even without Kyrie Irving and Co., and even with the likes of Shane Larkin and Semi Ojeleye playing meaningful minutes, they’re not going anywhere. In that respect, the Bucks didn’t so much prevail as escape.
The question or the Celtics as the series shifts back to Boston on Tuesday tied 2-2, is if we’ll see the misfiring squad of the first half or the firing-on-all-cylinders one of the second.
The Celtics were abysmal over the first two quarters while afflicted with a familiar malady — the inability to make a shot. Their worst moment of the game came at the end of the first quarter, when the Bucks converted a basket to take a five-point lead before perpetual irritant Mathew Dellavedova stole an ill-advised groundball inbounds pass from Morris and laid it in at the buzzer.
The ABC microphones later caught Celtics coach Brad Stevens admonishing his team for losing “our minds.”
The Celtics entered the break with only 35 points, but they came alive in the second half by moving the ball from side to side and attacking the heart of Milwaukee’s defense with dribble penetration. For two quarters, Milwaukee effectively used its length to pin the Celtics on the perimeter, but once the C’s made a conscious effort to drive the middle, open shots followed.
This opened things up for second-year swingman Jaylen Brown, who just may have been the best player on the floor. Brown finished with 34 points, topping the playoff high of 30 he had set just two games ago. His 3-pointer with 1:29 left drew the Celtics within one.
Thirty seconds later, his partner in crime, Tatum, calmly drilled a 19-footer in Khris Middleton’s face to give the Celtics their first lead since 14-13. Tatum finished with 21 points and did not appear fazed by the moment, which the Celtics need some more of in Game 5.
It’s easy to forget, but the Celtics are one of the three or four youngest teams in the league, younger than even the Lakers. While this bodes well for the future, it’s saving them in the present, because Brown and Tatum have been two of their best scorers this postseason.
Brown had a chance to extend the lead with 30 seconds left, but he lost the ball while trying to step around Middleton on a transition drive, sending the Bucks the other way for Malcolm Brogdon’s go-ahead 3-pointer.
Al Horford’s free throws tied it, but Giannis Antetokounmpo tipped in a Brogdon miss with 5.1 seconds left for the winning basket before Morris’s near-miss.
And so now the series heads back to Boston, and both squads are probably asking themselves the same question — which Celtics squad will show up?
Full article @ Bucks 104, Celtics 102: C’s erase 20-point deficit but fall short at buzzer
Source: GreenStreet Blog