For a while there Monday night it looked like the Boston Celtics would even their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Unfortunately for the Celtics and their home fans, second half struggles ultimately led to a double-digit Bucks victory and a 3-1 series lead. Could this have been Kyrie Irving’s final game in Boston as a member of the Celtics? Is the series over?
These are among the top takeaways from Milwaukee’s 113-101 win over the Celtics to take a commanding lead in the series.
Cold shooting first quarter from Milwaukee
Giannis Antetokounmpo hit on 3-of-5 shots for eight points in the first quarter. The rest of his Bucks teammates connected on just 6-of-19 for 14 points en route to seeing Boston take an eight-point advantage into the second quarter.
That’s not necessarily the type of supporting cast the Greek Freak needed early on as his Bucks looked take a 3-1 series lead.
Celtics followed suit in the second quarter
Despite holding an advantage at the half with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter, Boston did not follow a strong initial stanza with equally good shooting in the second quarter. Boston tallied a grand total of 19 points and shot just over 30 percent.
This enabled Milwaukee to remain in the game and make a run in the second half. It certainly had to feel like a lost opportunity for the Celtics. It also led to another disappointing loss for Boston in this series.
Khris Middleton with questionable shot selection
Whenever your top MVP candidate finishes the first half with less shots than a role player, it’s not a good sign. For the Bucks, that included Middleton putting up 14 shots in the first two quarters compared to 10 from Giannis.
When all was said and done the impending free agent shot just 4-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-10 from distance. Middleton’s shot has been great from distance this postseason (55%). Even then, it might be time to defer to the Greek Freak.
Despite both teams struggling from distance, this one seemed more like a Warriors-Rockets clash than an Eastern Conference Playoff game. All said, both Milwaukee and Boston attempted 37-plus three-pointers.
Again, neither had success. Milwaukee shot at 22% on 37 threes while the Celtics stood at 20% on 41 attempts from distance. The ball wasn’t moving around a whole lot in this game. That led to both teams hoisting up threes in traditional half-court sets. This isn’t indicate of long-term playoff success. It’s something to think about, especially if Milwaukee ends up advancing.
This All-Star guard entered Game 4 having shot just 39% thus far in the series. These struggles have coincided with Jaylen Brown and Al Horford stepping up from a scoring standpoint.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, Irving’s struggles continued. He shot just 7-of-22 from the field, including 1-of-7 from distance en route to putting up 23 points. At a time when Boston needed its star to step up, Irving struggled big time.
The end of these Celtics as we know them?
TD Garden was absolutely quiet as the Celtics saw themselves outscored 66-52 in the second half. One has to wonder if fans in Boston were coming to the realization that their team’s run was about to come to an end.
The backdrop here is real. Irving is slated to become a free agent. There’s a darn good chance Boston’s best player leaves once July comes calling. Down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, that departure could very well be expedited. What happens in Game 5 and moving forward will tell us a lot about Irving’s future in Boston.
Giannis is a bad, bad man
The Greek Freak might have found himself in foul trouble Monday night. But minding his business on that end of the court in the second half, Antetokounmpo absolutely dominated what seemed to be a lesser Celtics team.
When all was said and done, the MVP candidate scored 39 points on 15-of-22 shooting. He also grabbed 16 rebounds while dishing out four assists. Boston simply didn’t have an answer for Giannis, and it has Milwaukee on the verge of the conference finals.