From the moment the Boston Celtics lost game five of their second-round playoff matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, you knew their chances of progressing onto the Conference Finals had taken an enormous blow.
Suddenly, the Celtics are in a position where they have to win two consecutive games against the reigning NBA champions; otherwise, their season will come to an abrupt end, and their mid-season resurgence will have been for nothing.
Heading into this series, the Celtics were seen as the favorites following their four-game demolition of the Brooklyn Nets and the absence of Khris Middleton from Milwaukee’s rotation. However, Boston has found ways to lose games, with two of their losses coming from self-inflicted implosions while being in a winning position.
Those tough losses have swung this series in Milwaukee’s favor, and now, even the most loyal analysts are starting to change allegiances. Former Boston Celtic and 2008 NBA Champion is the latest analysts to lose faith.
“When I’m looking at the Celtics, and I’m looking at them playing without Rob Williams, that means the paint is going to be wide open; I understand Al Horford has done a wonderful job.
Losing that game, blowing that 14-point lead in the 4th quarter. I want the Celtics to win. I hope they win. But I got the Bucks winning tonight; they’re closing it out,” Perkins said on a recent episode of ESPN’s First Take.
Ime Udoka has Marcus Smart’s Back
Following the Celtics game five loss, Marcus Smart came in for large swathes of criticism from the fan base and the NBA media. The veteran point guard was involved in multiple actions that swung the game in Milwaukee’s favor down the stretch and ultimately lost the ball on the final possession to kill any hopes of Boston forcing overtime.
“We knew how they were defending it. We didn’t get into it quick enough and get the ball where we wanted to, so Marcus had to go make a play. Five-second count counting down and no timeouts. So, nothing to blame Marcus for that at all. It was really our lack of execution overall as a team,” Udoka said during a recent interview on Zolak & Bertrand of 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Udoka’s comments are referring to the game’s final side-line out-of-bounds play, where a miscommunication on the weakside forced the veteran guard to receive the ball and attack the rim. Unfortunately, Jrue Holiday read the action and blocked Smart’s shot attempt at the rim, leading to heavy criticism on social media.
Robert Williams Suffering From a Bone Bruise
When Brad Stevens extended Robert Williams a contract extension last summer, many believed it was a risk due to the Lousiana native’s inability to stay healthy. Those fears began to dissipate throughout the season as Williams quickly proved himself as one of the best rim protectors in the NBA.
However, a torn meniscus towards the end of the season robbed the improving big man of a chance to prove himself in the post-season, with him missing multiple games as he recovered from surgery. Williams made it back to help Boston close out the first round and was present in the early exchanges with Milwaukee but will have missed the team’s last three games due to swelling and soreness around the knee.
Unfortunately, head coach Ime Udoka provided a less than ideal update on May 13, noting that Williams has suffered a bone bruise.
“He got his knee scanned, and everything structurally is good. It looks fine, the swelling went down, but he still has some soreness and pain. Revealed that he has a small bone bruise from a collision he took in Game 3,” Udoka told reporters ahead of the game.
If the Celtics can win game six, we could see Williams return for the final game of the series at the TD Garden. Still, with his injury history and recent surgery, it’s better for the team to play things safe and focus on his long-term availability.