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There were moments on Thursday when it looked like the Boston Celtics might just close out the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6.
There was the drive to the rim by Jayson Tatum that was cut off, which led to a perfect cut by Jaylen Brown and a layup. There was a play where the ball zipped around the floor and found Tatum for a driving layup under the rim, evening the score in the third quarter. There was Marcus Smart spinning around Eric Bledsoe in the post, and Brown blowing by Khris Middleton off the dribble to cut Boston’s deficit to three in the fourth.
But there were a lot of others moments as well — when Milwaukee’s defense clamped down, Giannis Antetokounmpo got out in transition, and the Celtics looked lost. There were moments where you wondered how Boston had ever scored enough points to win a game in this series in the first place.
Those were the moments that ultimately doomed the Celtics, who fell 97-86 on Thursday as the Bucks forced a decisive Game 7.
“I thought every time we got stagnant, we weren’t very good,” Brad Stevens said. “Whenever any one person had the ball for more than a second or two, it was bad news for us. We had a stretch there, middle of third to middle of fourth where we had some tremendous possessions. The ball was really popping and then we stopped. That was part of our undoing.”
Last night it felt like the Cs were Sisyphus trying to push the Milwaukee Bucks up and over the mountain to dispatch of them once and for all. Of course, in the myth, Sisyphus’ fate is sealed from the beginning — he’ll get painfully close to the top with his boulder, only for it to come crashing back down to the bottom to start the climb all over again. While the Celtics’ failed attempts to put the Bucks away last night weren’t preordained, they sure felt that way.
Putting the home team away in a do-or-die game six (especially when it could be the last game in a storied –and decrepit– gym) is hard work. Especially when, as Brad Stevens has mentioned repeatedly, the Cs have to be close to perfect with their game-plan offensively in order to win this series. Yet, the Celtics were certainly close to completing their task last night. They jumped out to an 11 point lead early. When they lost nearly all of it to start the second, they built it back to seven points at 31-24. They climbed out of a 14-point hole in the early third, tying the game at 61, only to fall back behind again by 9. They then climbed within two points in the fourth quarter. Yet, every time the moment called for an exclamation point, the Celtics couldn’t provide it.
We at Red’s Army and the media in general have talked of this post-season in terms of growth and experience. The ceiling, due to injuries, isn’t nearly as high as we all hoped it to be, but now the young Celtics get a game seven in their building on a Saturday night. They couldn’t get to the top last night, but the consolation prize are the two most exciting words in sports.
On page 2, Saturday night should be crazy
“TD Garden is going to be great. As a basketball player or fan, one of the places you want to enjoy and be, it’s TD Garden for a Game 7,” said Horford, whose first postseason trip, with the Atlanta Hawks, ended with a Game 7 loss to Boston’s most recent Big Three during the team’s 2008 title run.
Added Horford: “I’ve been on both sides. It’s tough about [Thursday’s loss], but I’m definitely looking forward to Saturday.”
“The result is our guys get to experience a Game 7, which, again, we didn’t want,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Game 7 in TD Garden is what you play for. It should be what you’re excited most about. What you worked for all summer, what you worked for all year. It’s a blast.”
“The approach is by any means necessary get the win,” Marcus Morris said. “We did lose [Thursday], but it’s not all bad. We get to go home and play in front of our fans. Game 7 in Boston I heard is really crazy. So I’m excited.”
Asked about his team’s confidence level, Morris said, “A lot of confidence. [The Bucks] did what they were supposed to do. They handled home court. And now we get to go play in front of the best fans in the NBA.”
It’s easy to forget that only four guys remain from last year’s Celtics team that took a hotly contested seventh game from the Wizards at the Garden. That game was intense from the jump as this one most certainly will be as well. The Bucks are either going to need Giannis’ signature game (think something approaching Lebron James’ 2012 game six) or an unsung role player to have the type of road performance for them that no guy has yet to have on the road.
Whatever goes down, the Cs are pumped, and all are about to learn real fast what it looks and sounds like in Boston when the building is packed for a deciding game.
And finally, don’t be surprised if Marcus Morris plays with one leg tomorrow night
Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris took what looked like a painful knee to the thigh from Milwaukee Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova in the second half of Game 6 on Thursday.
The hard-nosed forward stayed down for a minute rubbing his leg, then stood up and flexed it several times, making his way to the free-throw line. Eventually, he took his free throws and got back on defense, but the play clearly nagged at him.
Asked about the injury after the game, Morris said he was fine and that it wasn’t a big deal.
“Even if it was, you’d have to cut my leg off for me not to play (in Game 7),” Morris said. “So it is what it is.”
Mass Live — Boston Celtics Marcus Morris kneed in thigh
If you didn’t think Marcus Morris was excited for his first game seven, now you know. I’m on board for one more game of riding the Mook Roller Coaster. Cringing and screaming internally when he take four straight shots on isolation plays in the fourth quarter last night, and exhaling and cheering when he assuredly will carry the Cs offense for short, but important stretches tomorrow night. Here’s hoping that both the series-long and historic trends of role players playing better at home continues tomorrow night.