Reimer: Here's hoping Celtics lose in 5, so we can all be put out of our misery

Alex Reimer
May 07, 2019 - 12:30 pm
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The Celtics have not responded to adversity all season long, so there is no reason to expect them to start now. The only appropriate end for this lethargic group of All-Stars that's slogged its way through a maddening season is an early playoff exit, which they are on the brink of achieving. The 60-win Bucks are a much better team. Let’s hope they wrap this up in five, so we can all move on and blow up basketball’s equivalent of the chicken and beer squad.

At this point, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Josh Beckett chowing down on some Popeye’s thighs with Kyrie Irving in the tunnel. That’s where Irving found himself with roughly 10 seconds to go in Boston’s 113-101 Game 4 loss to the Bucks, which puts the Celtics in a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series hole. 

The Garden faithful booed the Celtics several times Monday, potentially sending off Irving with the same negativity he spread around the locker room this season. Earlier this year, Terry Rozier admitted Irving’s moodiness affects how the Celtics play.

“Kyrie is our leader. When he’s in a great mood and he’s feeling good, we’re harder to beat,” Rozier told NBC Sports Boston in February. “It’s contagious, it rubs off on everybody else. Sometimes when he’s not like that, it can get everybody up tight.”

Entering this series against Milwaukee, the Celtics claimed they had changed. Irving boasted to Jackie MacMullan about not caring what people think anymore; Rozier and Jaylen Brown spoke about their personal growth.

During the second half of the season, following almost every exasperating loss ––  a blown 28-point lead to the Clippers, a pathetic Saturday night defeat in Charlotte –– Irving kept repeating the Celtics would be ready come the playoffs. He dismissed the regular season and appeared unconcerned with the team’s continued struggles. It’s the opposite approach we usually want from our athletes, to whom we dedicate hours of lives watching play. But through five games this postseason, it appeared Irving might have been right.

The C’s were 5-0, sweeping the Pacers and embarrassing the Bucks in Game 1. Last week, Paul Pierce declared the series was over.

Eight days later, it doesn’t look like Pierce could’ve been more wrong. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was held to just 7-of-21 shooting in Game 1, has scored 100 points over his last three games. The Celtics can’t stop him, or anybody else on the Bucks, for that matter. George Hill and Eric Bledsoe have combined for 83 points over the last two games, mocking Irving on both ends of the floor. In addition to not playing defense, Irving is 19-for-62 from the field over the last three games. 

For my money, the Celtics’ nadir on Monday came with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Irving hurled up a three-pointer early in the shot clock and then sagged on the other end while Hill drove to the basket for an easy bucket. The Bucks’ lead stretched back to double figures following an ill-fated attempt at “hero ball” coupled with no defensive effort whatsoever. Unlike previous Brad Stevens teams, this group quits when its shots aren’t falling.

That is why the Bucks have been able to run away with games in a matter of minutes. In Game 2, Milwaukee went on a 24-2 run in the third; Game 3 saw a 12-0 push late in the third period; Game 4 was the sight of a 10-0 Bucks third quarter run with Giannis on the bench. The Celtics were trailing 59-58 when Giannis was subbed out with 8:18 left in the third. Their deficit extended to 80-72 when Giannis reentered the contest at the start of the fourth.

The Celtics are royally screwed up. This was supposed to be the penultimate season to Danny Ainge’s dynastic plan, ending with an NBA Finals run to set up the summer blockbuster pairing of Irving and Anthony Davis. But it’s apparent the Celtics cannot stick with the preordained path. Last year’s team, which took LeBron’s Cavaliers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, played without Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year’s team has both of them, and they stink. The former is an otherworldly point guard whose basketball brilliance appeared to torpedo the club; the latter is a decaying All-Star who can’t seem to get past his gruesome ankle injury from last year.

Jayson Tatum, Brown and an aging Al Horford may not be Eastern Conference favorites, but at least they would be fun to watch. That was the other sad reality about Monday night, and the bulk of this season: these games have been a depressing plod. 

When Irving was asked about his terrible 7-for-22 performance, he said he should’ve shot the ball 30 times. Good. Here’s hoping he does that Wednesday. Maybe this thing could be over by halftime. 

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