At this point, did anyone think another injury would set the Celtics back?
Gordon Hayward? Gone. Kyrie Irving? Gone. And those are just the big names. All season long the Boston Celtics have trusted their system, believed that the next man would step up, and went on to earn the No. 2 seed in the East — with the best defense in the NBA along the way.
So Jaylen Brown going out with a hamstring issue and not playing the second half of Game 7 against the Bucks, was that really going to derail the Celtics?
Nope. The Celtics shut down the Bucks transition opportunities and forced them into the halfcourt, then got their own guys to step up — both Al Horford and Terry Rozier had 26 points, leading a systemic attack.
The result was a comfortable 112-96 win for the Celtics in Game 7 Saturday night in Boston.
The win sends the Celtics on to the next round against the Sixers in a throwback, classic series — queue the Dr. J vs. Larry Bird clips.
The first-round loss for the Bucks leaves them in exactly the same place they have been three of the last four years and with questions about who will be their coach next season and what it will take to start advancing through the playoffs.
Those Bucks got good raw numbers from their key guys — Kris Middleton had 32 points on 18 shots, Eric Bledsoe had 23 points on 12 shots, and Giannis Antetokoumpo had 22 points on 17 shots. It wasn’t enough, in part because they couldn’t get stops. Which was a reflection of the entire season. We keep expecting them to make a leap, and they have yet to do it. Can a new coach change that? We likely will see.
As Game 7s tend to be, this was not a pretty game, the Celtics shot 1-of 12 from three in the first half, while the Bucks were 3-of-11 from deep in the first 24 minutes. That changed in the second half for the Celtics, who shot 57.1 percent from three from that range in the second half.
Jaylen Brown has been bothered by a sore hamstring for weeks and tried to play through it, but it eventually caught up with him and he sat out the second half. He had help from Aron Baynes, while Jayson Tatum showed off his improved handles. Others came in for small roles and made plays, such as Terry Rozier and Al Horford each scoring 26, and Jayson Tatum with 20.
However, it was mostly the Celtics defense and discipline that won them this game. Those are things they can take into the second round against the Sixers, but Boston is going to have to play better to advance.