Boston Celtics

By Ty Anderson,

The Celtics stumbled in the first 36 minutes of their first post-All-Star break contest, but brought their absolute best effort in the fourth quarter, erasing a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter and pushing the Milwaukee Bucks to the brink. But it was an effort that came up just short, as the Bucks nabbed a one-point victory sealed by a last-second miss by Kyrie Irving.

It was a frustrating end for Irving, who scored a Celtic-high 22 points in 41 minutes, as he was forced into being the Green’s top option (and from his left hand) as time expired, and served as a sour ending to an otherwise electric final 120 seconds.

Behind Irving, Al Horford collected a season-high 17 rebounds, while Jaylen Brown scored 15 off the Boston bench.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team with 30 points behind a 11-of-19 effort from the field.

Here are some random thoughts and notes from a 98-97 loss at the Fiserv Forum…

It sure looks like Marcus Morris was fouled on Boston’s final possession

With the game hanging in the balance, the Celtics drew up a play for Marcus Morris.

But Morris, mauled by Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, was never able to get the rock in his hands by the game’s end.

“Kyrie set a great back-screen and Morris… fell down. The dude was holding; he had been held,” Marcus Smart said after the loss. “Once that play was done, the second option was for Kyrie. [Irving] made a great play, got the ball up.

“We had a chance.”

“I tried to set a good screen on Mook,” Irving said. “I don’t know if he got fouled or not.

“I don’t know what happened.”

Morris, who was irate with the official following the final horn and voiced his displeasure as Milwaukee celebrated, declined to speak with reporters after the loss, according to The Athletic’s Jay King. That’s probably for the best (for his wallet).

Now, Morris may have been mugged, but if the Celtics want to blame somebody or something for this loss, they should look to their third quarter. In a quarter that opened with the teams shooting a combined 3-for-22, the Celtics failed to capitalize on the Bucks scoring just three (three!) points in the opening six and a half minutes of the second half.

That’s not on the refs.

Kyrie Irving, while frustrating, is still Green’s man in crunch time

It’s becoming easy to turn on Kyrie Irving.

Nights like Thursday, which saw Irving connect on just nine of his 27 attempts from the field, do not help.

But with the game on the line, is there a Celtic you’d rather have on the floor than Irving? In the final 3:11 of the fourth quarter, Irving totaled five points on a two-for-four shooting effort (it was better than it sounds, as Irving made a three look effortless and lost possession but regained it and turned it into a beauty of a driving layup), and directly factored in on all of Boston’s 10 points over that span, with assists on both of Horford’s makes.

Even the Celtics admit that there’s no better way for the game to end than with the ball in Irving’s hands.

Fear not, Celtics can still handle The Deer

Forgive me for not being Doctor Doom right now (which I know is incredibly difficult to not do with this team right now), but it’s kinda hard to lose my mind over a one-point loss to the best team in the Eastern Conference (the Bucks now have a 1.5 game lead on the second-place Toronto Raptors). It’s especially difficult to freak out when you didn’t get a great shooting night from your starting five, and played without Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes.

Give me a seven-game series with this team and I really think the Celtics have the goods to pull off a victory.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 98.5 The Sports Hub. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.