Celtics

Celtics' comeback falls short as Bucks take Game 4, 104-102

Celtics' comeback falls short as Bucks take Game 4, 104-102

MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics were down big to the Milwaukee Bucks, and managed to make it a down-to-the-wire finish, the kind of game we’ve seen them find a way to win often. 

Not today, as the Bucks held off Boston’s rally to escape with a 104-102 win. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo tipped in a Malcolm Brogdon miss with five seconds to play for what would be the game-winning basket. 

After a Celtics timeout, Marcus Morris’ jumper rimmed in and out as time expired. 

And so now we have a series tied at two games apiece, with Game 5 in Boston on Tuesday and a return to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday. 

Jaylen Brown had a career-high 34 points for Boston while Jayson Tatum had 21 points. For the Bucks, Antetokounmpo had 27 points while Khris Middleton had 23.

After falling behind by as many as 20 points, Boston mounted a 22-10 run to end the third quarter. 

And that surge had the Celtics well within striking distance, 75-67, going into the fourth. 

Boston continued its strong play with a 10-2 run to start the quarter that included a lay-up by Marcus Morris to tie the game at 77-all with more than nine minutes to play. 

But the Bucks bounced back with a 6-2 spurt that included a pair of 3’s by Thon Maker and Eric Bledsoe. 

The Milwaukee surge continued, with Bledsoe sinking a pair of free throws after being fouled by Terry Rozier that increased the Bucks’ lead to 90-85 with 5:27 to play.

Boston was indeed playing a better, more complete brand of basketball that was evident from the opening tip as they opened the game with a 12-5 run. 

But in reality, the score should have been even more lopsided when you factor in the open misses by the Celtics that kept them from really putting some much-needed distance between them and Milwaukee. 

And as was the case in Game 3, the Bucks turned to their second unit and they once again delivered a first-rate performance. 

Jabari Parker, a key contributor in Game 3 after being a non-factor in Games 1 and 2 who grumbled about his diminished role, was once again coming up big for the Bucks.

At the half, Parker had 12 points along with some impressive defensive plays that included stripping Marcus Morris.

Maker was still making the Celtics pay from 3-point range and with his help defense.

Meanwhile, the Celtics looked like a team that was searching for someone, anyone to provide a spark. 

Brown was as close as we saw to a Boston player bringing that dynamic to the game. 

With Boston trailing 51-35 at the half, Brown was doing his part to contribute as he scored 15 of his career-high 34 points in the first half.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

1:43 - Chris Mannix joined Gary Tanguay and Kyle Draper on Early Edition to discuss if the Celtics could trade up in the draft, and if the Celtics have any chance of acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

6:35 - Phil Perry talks about Albert Breer’s report that the Patriots talked with four teams (Lions, Titans, 49ers, Texans) about trading Rob Gronkowski. We also hear from Holley, Merloni, and DJ Bean about Tom Brady commenting “cuarenta y cinco” in response to an Instagram post about when he’ll retire.

10:34 - Lou Merloni and Chris Gasper debate how important it is for the Red Sox to avoid the Wild Card play-in game and win the AL East over the Yankees. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE