How the Celtics Season Should have Ended (Part 3)

Fear the Dear?

When I opened this series I talked about the big dub the Celts secured against the Milwaukee Bucks. Since then, the Greek Freak won his second MVP in a row and cruised through the end of the regular season. Entering the playoffs as a 1 seed and clear favorite, the Bucks bludgeoned the poor Magic in 4 games, then beat the pesky Pacers in 6. Thus we arrive at the Eastern Conference Finals.

Bucks Strike First

Shooting cold out of the gate, the emotionally drained Celtics find themselves struggling against the fresher and highly efficient Bucks. Giannis’ length and athleticism is, and will continue to be a problem. The Bucks fly up and down the court, and the Celtics are a step or two too slow. A few thunderous Giannis dunks and threes from the supporting cast finds the Bucks up 8 after 1 quarter and 16 going in to the half.

Mess with the Bucks….

Consequently, the second half becomes a time to give playoff experience to some of the newer Celtics. After 3 the score is Bucks by 18, and during the 4th quarter the Buck’s lead swells to more than 26 before settling for a final score of 116-99. Tatum has another stellar game, going for 29-8, but the rest of the Celtics can’t put the ball in the net. Giannis has an easy 34-12-8, and the Bucks look the part of NBA title contender at the expense of the Celts.

…You Get the Antlers

Game 2 is closer from start to finish. Giannis continues to control the run of play, but the Celtics team effort in the first half finds them up 4 at the half, with Kemba, Tatum, and Brown all in double digits. Khris Middleton is also having a good game, coming in with 11 after a half of play. The second half sees Giannis pull up gimpy. It’s a sickening scene, but the Bucks rally in the face of the adversity and end up leading by 1 at the end of the 3rd, as Middleton continues to lead the charge. As the fourth gets underway, Giannis jogs out from the tunnel.

Giannis Returns

Thankfully, a tweaked ankle was all that was wrong with Antetokounmpo, and he enters the game without missing a beat. The game tenses up down the stretch, with both teams playing great defense, limiting scoring chances. Bledsoe nails a mid-range jumper with a minute left. The clock ticks under 40 seconds and Kemba answers with a step-back of his own. Coach Bud elects to let the run of play continue and Giannis splits a double and makes a layup over a slow-rotating Theis.

The Celtics will have the final shot, but a tipped pass by Connaughton leads to scramble for the ball. With only 2.3 seconds left the ball goes out off Marcus Smart. The Bucks inbound the ball, Bledsoe makes his free-throws, and the game ends with a four point Bucks win. Tatum is visibly upset as he walks off the court, he had a 31 with a few minutes left in the 4th, but didn’t get another shot. This is a turning point for Tatum.

Celtics Pride

Game 3 is a must win for the Celtics, obviously. Brad Stevens has the boys ready and the Celtics take control early and maintain a healthy lead throughout. The Bucks may have taken the foot off the gas in this one, as the Celtics maintain a double digit lead for nearly the entire game. In the end, the Celtics wrap up a 14 point win easily, even giving more time to the young players in the 4th quarter. Tatum has 27-11 in only 32 minutes and Brown also pours in 25. Smart had two skinned knees, a jammed finger, and a flop for his best statistical performance of the series so far.

Even it Up

The Celtics continue to play well as a unit, and lead by 3 over a sluggish Giannis and the Bucks. Connaughton let slip to the media that his MVP teammate may not be right, even as the Superstar denies any lingering effects. We will never find out what really is going on, but Giannis definitely does not look right. The Celtics continue to push the Bucks and still lead by 3 at half. Tatum has his customary 14, Kemba as 12, and Smart has 8 with a strip of Middleton going up for a dunk.

The second half is a rather bland affair, without Giannis’ relentless intensity to feed off, the Bucks don’t seem to have it today. Middleton puts up a fight with his 23 points, but the Celtics slowly build their lead until they have full control, and win by 9. Tatum finishes with another 30 point game, with a fantastic 37-9-6 line. Tatum is averaging 30 in the playoffs at this point. Kemba has 23 in what has quietly been a very consistent first playoffs for him.

Best of 3

Kemba has it going in this one, with 9 in the first and 7 in the second quarter. The Bucks team is keeping them in it, as Giannis continues to deal with his non injured ankle. At half the score is 55 all. The second half opens with a technical from Smart, who is called for flopping on a Freakish drive. The home crowd gets fired up, and so do the Bucks along with them. The third quarter becomes a runaway, and the Bucks end up leading 84-75 at the end of it. Giannis has awoken from his slumber, and has 14-6-5 in the third quarter in a dominating performance.

The fourth quarter finds a game that can never get close despite of the exploits by one Kemba Walker. Walker has another 11 in the quarter and finished with 38 in the game on 15 shots. The Bucks are feeling themselves, however, and on the back of Giannis and Middleton, win by 8.

Must Win at the Garden

The Celtics are desperate and play like it. However, the Bucks are ready. This is a defensive slugfest, if only because describing it by offensive putridity seems to take away from the outstanding intensity both teams show. This is a game built for Marcus, and early he is wreaking havoc on poor Eric Bledsoe. After one both teams score 19 points, and not without considerable effort. The second quarter is much the same, and after a half the score is a grisly 44-41 Bucks.

Win or Stay Home

The third quarter continues to be tight, and with foul trouble starting to rear its ugly head by the end of the quarter. Giannis has a hard earned 17 after 3 quarters, Tatum 15, Middleton 9, and Brown 12. The fourth quarter begins with a set play by Brad that frees a Carsen Edwards at the top of the key for a three, foreshadowing how this quarter goes for the Celtics. Finally, the shooters wake up on both sides – but even more for the Celtics. Something clicks here and the Celtics are able to escape the game with a 97-91 win.

Venison? Or Will the Celtics Luck Run Out?

Many game 7’s open with one or both teams playing tight. This game would be in a similar place, except one Jayson Tatum happens to be scorching hot in this one. The first quarter sees Tatum score 9 without missing a shot. Antetokounmpo is playing well but continues to not shoot the ball well in the series. The second quarter has Tatum continue his consistency, missing two shots on the way to doubling his scoring output to 18. Giannis has 15 making half his shots, but the Bucks find themselves down 5 in from of their home crowd. The Celtics are gelling around Tatum’s efficient play and working well off him, while the Bucks can’t seem to find it outside Antetokounmpo.

Deer in Headlights

The third quarter is another Tatum classic. Jayson is hitting every shot. Brown is playing well off him while Kemba operates the machine in perfect harmony. The Celtics lead swells to double digits are the Freak has some foul issues amidst his frustration. After another 14 from Tatum in the quarter, he sits at 32 after 3 quarters and the Celtics are up 12. The fourth quarter has a desperate Bucks team get within 5, as Brook Lopez hits a couple 3’s and Donte DiVincenzo shows once again that no lights are too big for him with a big 3 of his own. However, in the end, the Celtics pull away for a 11 point victory after the dust (and end game fouls) settles. Giannis has 29, Middleton has 21, and Donte has 19, but it isn’t enough in this one. Smart has 18 in this one to be even with Kemba on the scoresheet. Brown has another efficient game and has 15-6-5, and finally, Tatum ends up with an even 40 on 75% shooting.

No More Parties in LA

The Celtics, who have really shown grit and have come together in the playoffs, move on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in what is shaping up to be an all-time classic finals. Lebon, AD, and the Lakers escaped the Clippers in 7, but other than that have run roughshod over the Western Conference. Will the Celtics have enough firepower to beat two of the top 5 starts in the NBA, on a team built perfectly for them?

-Brent Buckley (@bigbucksbuckley on the twitter)

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