By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s do or die time for the Boston Celtics. But it feels like this team is ready to give in to the latter rather than fight for the former.
Down 3-1 to the Bucks after dropping three straight, with Game 5 in Milwaukee, the Celtics are facing an all-but-certain demise over the next few days. It’s not the end anyone predicted way back in September, and one no one wanted to accept as the team treated the regular season like 82 games for meaningless basketball. It didn’t matter how many times Kyrie Irving called out his teammates, how many times they met behind closed doors, or how many times they promised everyone there was a good team ready to emerge. These Celtics are a team that just doesn’t have the fight that teams of Brad Stevens past have displayed on a nightly basis. If the Celtics fell into a hole, there was little chance they ever had the gusto to get themselves out.
This series is no different, and just magnifies the issues that plagued the team all season. The Celtics and Bucks have played fairly even in the first halves over the last three games, only to have Milwaukee demolish Boston over the final 24 minutes. The Bucks have outscored the C’s by 39 points over the last three games, with Boston showing no desire to make necessary adjustments to spot that onslaught. When they get behind, they play disjointed, letting Kyrie play hero ball at a painfully frustrating level.
Irving has said a number of times that this is the time of the year when he shines. We’re still waiting for that to happen. He said throughout the regular season that this postseason would be different for the Celtics, because he would be on the floor this time around. If anything, his horrid stretch over the last three games is the main reason the team is on the brink of elimination. There is other blame to be doled out; Brad Stevens has been completely out-coached by Mike Budenholzer these last three games, Gordon Hayward has gone missing, and Jayson Tatum has taken a step back after last season’s emergence in the playoffs. But if Kyrie wants to be a superstar leader, he needs to be a lot better than a 31 percent shooter who is getting outplayed by George Hill.
No one knows what to expect from the Celtics on Wednesday night. Winning on Wednesday would be a cruel joke on Celtics fans, but it would also be typical of these Celtics, waiting for the last minute to show any kind of care and instilling false hope among the faithful fans. It’s why they are such an unlikable group; they know what they could be, they just haven’t put in the work — or care — to make sure it’s what they ever became.
But would anyone be surprised if they gave up and put this disappointing campaign out of its misery? It would likely mean the end of Irving in a Celtics uniform, and open up a whole slew of questions going forward. It’s not the future we wanted in Boston, but it’s the reality we face. It seems inevitable, so let’s just get on with it.