Celtics

Celtics

MILWAUKEE -- Before Game 5 against Milwaukee, Marcus Morris had plans to be playing basketball for another month.

Maybe so, but it won’t be at an NBA arena near you because Morris and the Celtics closed out the 2018-19 season doing what they seemed to do all season - leaving folks disappointed with a string of head-scratching performances that concluded with a 116-91 Milwaukee beatdown that wrapped up this Eastern Conference semifinal for the Bucks in five games. 

The team that was supposed to turn it on in the playoffs apparently was good for the first round only. 

Because the top-seeded Bucks, aside from Game 1, totally owned the Celtics in ways we have seldom seen a C's-coached team by Brad Stevens in the postseason. 

There was an overall lack of grit and mental toughness that became a hallmark of this team showing up the way in-laws do for the holidays with short stints of strong play that never lasted long enough for anyone to get comfortable. 

There were stretches in Game 5 when the Celtics seemingly did all you would want to do offensively except for making the open shot they worked so hard to create. 

And defensively, all the missed shots (29-for-93, 31.2%) were eventually engulfed by a defense that Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates churned out with ease as they kept stepping on, over and through the Celtics through the final three quarters. 

It was a fitting end to the season considering the team that was built upon strong defense and solid shot-making had transformed into Kyrie Irving’s team, which had relied on shot-making to spark the defense. 

 

And on this night, like so many other nights this season, the offense struggled and the defense soon followed suit. 

Rinse.

Recycle.

Repeat.

The end result was Milwaukee continuing its mastery of the Celtics by beating them four consecutive times after dropping Game 1 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001. They'll face the winner of the Toronto-Philadelphia series. 

And this series produced a slew of notable performers, good and bad, for both teams. 

Here’s a look at the players who were instrumental in the outcome of Game 5 and, for that matter, the series:

MVP
Giannis Antetokounmpo: He is a great example of how playoff disappointment can inspire greatness. He lost a tough seven-game series to the Celtics last year and came back even better. And he capped off a tremendous series against Boston with another all-around monster game with 20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two blocked shots. 

MOST IMPROVED
Eric Bledsoe: He caught a lot of heat for his poor play last year against Boston and, like Antetokounmpo, he, too, came back a much better player this season. He had a solid night, tallying 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting to go with six rebounds.

SIXTH MAN
George Hill: It seems every stretch in which the Bucks asserted control of the game, Hill was on the floor either making shots or doing a solid job defensively preventing the Celtics from getting good looks. Game 5 was yet another night in which Hill’s impact was felt at both ends of the floor. He would tally nine points off the bench on 3-for-7 shooting from the field.

Marcus Morris: One of the few Celtics who seemed more than just engaged but ready to compete every game in this series, Morris came off the bench in Game 5 and was once again effective. He would finish the night with 12 points and nine rebounds in addition to playing solid defense and drawing fouls against both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. 

Pat Connaughton: Not much was expected from the Arlington, Mass. native when the season started. By the time it ended, he would prove to be one of the keys to the Bucks sending his hometown team home for the summer in just five games. And Game 5 was no different with Connaughton coming off the bench with five points and seven rebounds. 

MR. NOT-SO-GREAT
Kyrie Irving: He took 21 shots and seemed as if he was trying to get up 21 in the first half of Game 5 (he took 15 in the first half with five makes) and finished 6-for-21. Still, as in Games 3 and 4, Irving was misfiring all over the place in what has been a disastrous postseason that’s easily the worst of his career. And with his 15 points on 6-for-21 shooting on Wednesday in Game 5, there’s a chance that it’ll be the last game we see Irving play as a member of the Celtics. A ton of uncertainty surrounds the free-agent-to-be. Will he re-sign with Boston or take his talents elsewhere? 

 

Al Horford: As the series wore on, Horford’s seemed to gradually get worse from one game to the next. Certainly part of that had to do with his defensive assignment - Antetokounmpo - in addition to trying to help out his perimeter teammates, who consistently struggled to keep Milwaukee’s guards in front of them. In Game 5, Horford had nine points with six rebounds and five assists.

Gordon Hayward: It was as if the minute the Celtics hit the reset button for this series, Hayward hit the reset button for the season with his play against the Bucks looking too much like his play back in November and December when he was a non-factor most games. They needed him to be close to his best in this series and he was far, far away from being that guy. In fact, his play against Milwaukee was arguably his worst stretch this season, which from a timing standpoint, is about as bad as it gets. In Game 5 he had seven points on 3-for-9 shooting.

TURNING POINT
Boston took its first (and only) lead of the game, 19-18, in the first quarter following a 3-pointer by Marcus Morris. They had a chance to regain the lead but Irving’s shot was off the mark. The same could not be said for Hill. whose 3-pointer lifted Milwaukee to a 22-19 lead. The Bucks opened the second quarter with a 7-0 spurt and only built upon their control from there. 

UP NEXT
The Bucks await the winner of the Toronto-Philly series while the Celtics season comes to an end with plenty of question marks ahead this summer.  

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