And then the reigning world champions showed you what they were made of and resumed the evening by beating the Celtics, 110-107, in what is surely one of the toughest defeats in Boston sports lore.
“It hurts,” Marcus Smart said. “It’s bound to hurt… We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. And when it mattered most, they did it… We know we did it to ourselves . No one else . . . We just fell apart on the stretch . . . But we don’t have time to sulk. That’s it. On the next one.’
“Tonight was a tough loss, there’s no getting around it,” said Jayson Tatum (34 points). “We had a game on Friday and what happened tonight is what happened.”
In the Bostonian language, it was a bad missed opportunity. He just belongs there with some of the things that have always happened to the Bambino Curse Red Sox. It was a bit like watching the Yankees come back after Pedro Martinez took a 5-2 lead in the eighth with a chance to win the American League pennant.
Please don’t blame the officials on this one. dollars won their victory and the Celtics paid the price for being beaten on the boards in the final seconds. With the Bucks down 1 and 14.2 seconds left, Milwaukee‘s Bobby Portis had a HUGE offensive rebound and a miss drop from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Suddenly the Celtics were down 1. And they were a disaster in the final 14.2 seconds, a study in miscommunication.
First Smart had their shot blocked by Jrue Holiday after Boston used their final timeout. Then Boston had to foul and fouled Arlington’s Pat Connaughton – a free-throw machine. After the Spy Ponder made it two, the Celtics had no more timeouts, which meant they had to go the length of the floor, down 3, with 5.9 seconds left. Smart was stripped by Holiday.
And a stunned silence in the Garden.
I saw Wyc Grousbeck on the floor a few seconds after the end.
“I’m always positive,” the Celtics owner said. “I’ll be in Milwaukee and we’ll take one home.”
There is no other choice now. The Celtics must win at Forum Fiserv on Friday, then come home and win again in a Game 7 Sunday Showdown. Otherwise, Boston’s basketball season is over.
If completed, Game 5 will be the one everyone will remember. The pain of Game 5 will replace the feel-good moments in the fourth quarter of Game 4 at Milwaukee when Horford stood tall and the Celts played near-perfect basketball, making 16 of 19 shots and seemingly gutting the stag.
The Celtics didn’t play a horrible game on Wednesday. But the regrets will run deep if they don’t bounce back with two wins.
They led by 14 in the fourth quarter. At home.
It doesn’t get any worse than that.
While we cry in our Boston beer, take a moment to give credit where it’s due. The Bucks are absolute mensch. They have no surrender. They don’t complain to officials. They just put their heads down and do what they do. Portis (14 points, 15 rebounds off the bench) plays like a reliable adult. Holiday (24 points) continues to shoot, even if he does not enter. And Antetokounmpo is a worthy champion.
The bloodied but undefeated Greek Freak went 40 with 11 rebounds. If that makes you feel any better, he’s also been called on a few charges and tagged with a travel violation. It’s like watching a total solar eclipse. But that didn’t give the Celtics the win.
“The streak isn’t over,” Tatum said. “…We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They’re a great team. We knew that.”
Earlier this week it was announced that the Bucks will play two pre-season games in Abu Dhabi before the start of next season. When Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was asked about it, he said, “We hope to take all the greatness of Milwaukee and share it. . . “
The Celtics hope to experience all the greatness that is Milwaukee, win on Friday, then bring it back to the Garden and win again on Sunday.
It’s still possible. Like the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup and the Red Sox winning the World Series, it’s still possible.
But right now it seems impossible.