A season that was supposed to feature a genuine run at an NBA Championship has come to a bitterly disappointing close.
The Boston Celtics are headed home for the summer after getting blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks, 116-91, bowing out of their Eastern Conference semifinals series in five games.
It’s in stark contrast to each of the last two postseasons, when the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals -- both times without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Haywayd.
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Irving, playing in possibly his final game as a Celtic (he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer) was a total non-factor, scoring 15 empty points on 6-of-21 shooting. He checked out for good with 8:40 still to go in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee comfortably ahead by more than 20 points.
"Truth be told, it's no time to be disappointed," "You take your lessons, you take the ass-whooping that they handed us, and you move on. It was a great opponent for me to play against for the rest of my career, because I know I won't forget something like this."
Hayward, in his first season back from his horrific ankle injury, was no better: he had only 7 points, all in the first half for Boston in a bench role.
Over the final four games, Irving shot 30.1 percent from the field for Boston (25-for-83).
The Celtics were an inexcusable 7-for-37 from 3-point land, good enough for a putrid 19 percent mark from beyond the arc.
Things got off the rails early for Boston, with the second quarter an abject disaster for the Celtics. They’d gotten off to a horrid start in the first quarter as well, falling behind 8-0 before eventually catching up at 19-19 on the heels of a 12-0 run.
Immediately after matching Milwaukee at 19-apiece, the Bucks reeled off 10 straight points. Perhaps most frustrating aspect of all for Boston was that Milwaukee start Giannis Antetokounmpo had only 6 points in the first half on 2-for-6 shooting; instead, it was role players along the lines of George Hill, Nikola Mirotic, Eric Bledsoe and Ersan Ilyasova who put the Celtics in a 13-point hole at the half, despite only shooting 41 percent from the floor themselves.
Irving had 13 first half points, but did so on 5-for-16 shooting and didn’t have any assists in the half. Jayson Tatum took only one shot in the first half.
Boston’s deficit increased to 18 points after three quarters, 80-62, lowlighted by a possession near the end of the frame in which the Bucks grabbed not one, not two, not three, not four but five straight offensive rebounds.
Even though Milwaukee wound up not scoring, it was clearer than ever the writing was on the wall for the Celtics.
Marcus Morris had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tatum wound up with 14 points as well for Boston, while Jaylen Brown rounded out Celtics scorers in double figures with 12 points.
Al Horford, who can also opt out of his contract once free agency begins, had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists for Boston.
Antetokounmpo wound up leading the Bucks with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting in just 31 minutes. Mirotic finished with a double-double for Milwaukee with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Khris Middleton and Bledsoe had 18 points for the Bucks. Hill finished with 16 points and Ersan Ilyasova had 10 off the bench.
Malcolm Brogdon, playing in his first game of the series upon return from injury, had 10 points in 17 minutes off the bench.
Milwaukee will face the winner of the Toronto Raptors-Philadelphia 76ers series; currently, the Raptors have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.