In the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Celtics-Bucks game, the Celtics half-heartedly swarmed a Giannis Antetokounmpo-Eric Bledsoe pick and roll at the top of the key, and Giannis smartly dumped a little bounce pass to Bledsoe on the short roll, where he could attack a scrambled Celtics defense. What followed was 36 seconds of the Bucks humiliating the Celtics in deliriously silly fashion:
Hard as it may be to believe, that sequence came before garbage time, of which there ultimately was plenty. It would be very tidy if you could point to that mess, when the Bucks got six possessions without the Celtics getting even a single one, and say this was the moment when the Celtics finally let go of the last tattered shreds of their will to compete. Things didn’t quite work out that way—the Bucks converted exactly zero of those possessions into points, and then Terry Rozier came back the other way and dropped in a jumper to settle things down. But the Celtics were already down 16 points by that point in the game, and had just 60 points on the board, and were already signaling with their body language and offensive cohesion and defensive intensity that they’d accepted their fate. They showed up for Wednesday night’s Game 5 for the largely ceremonial formal closing of their season, and the Bucks were all too happy to put them out of their misery, cruising to a dominant 116–91 victory.
Kyrie Irving, who finished a game-worst minus-25 in 33 minutes, started the game on pace to make good on his recent threat to get up 30 shots against the Bucks. He got up nine shots in the first quarter, and seven more in the second, and seemed determined, more than anything, to put his personal stamp on this game, whatever the result. Unfortunately, his stamp looked mostly like this:
The airball sucks, but stick with the clip long enough to appreciate Kyrie’s totally indifferent low block defense on Khris Middleton. That was his night, more or less—Kyrie shot 5-of-16 from the floor in the first half, and finished the night with as many missed shots (15) as total points (15), and three turnovers versus just one single assist. For a guy who was supposed to be Boston’s best player, and talked up the importance of getting more of his own after Game 4, Kyrie mostly looked like crap in this game and this series, and the Celtics with Kyrie as their centerpiece never made much headway toward unlocking Milwaukee’s defense across these five games. For his part, Kyrie finished the series with more total shots (104) than total points (102). YouTube highlights master Dawkins was good enough to put together a Kyrie “highlight” reel of his stink-bomb:
What was especially encouraging for the Bucks and discouraging from the Celtics is how solidly Milwaukee’s bench players handled and even outplayed Boston’s celebrated depth. Milwaukee’s bench put together the decisive run of Game 4; in Game 5 they combined for 49 points, and with Malcolm Brogdon back in the fold they’re impressively deep in capable and useful wing players. Brogdon, playing for the first time in these playoffs, went for 10 off the bench Wednesday night, and finished plus-16; George Hill was again spry and masterful; Sterling Brown, who played respectable fill-in minutes across the first four games of the series, was put back on the shelf until garbage time. And Pat Connaughton frankly looks like someone jammed the “UPGRADE” button on the current version of Gordon Hayward.
The Celtics now enter a potentially volatile summer, eyeballing Anthony Davis on the trade market* and wondering whether Kyrie Irving would rather play for [gulp] the New York Knicks. The Bucks head to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001, and will hold home court advantage in a conference finals series for the first since 1974.