Irving – who who made a commercial touting his desire to have Boston retire his number – took a lonely walk to the locker room while his teammates tried to collect themselves.
Irving – who said the Celtics would be fine in the playoffs “because I’m here” – was out of sight as Boston fans booed.
Was this Irving’s final home game in Boston?
The Bucks took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Celtics in their second-round series with a 113-101 Game 4 win Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo (39 points, 16 rebounds and four assists) dominated, and Milwaukee outscored Boston by eight in 14 minutes without him.
Teams with home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 98% of the time – 75% of the time in five games. Milwaukee will have a chance to end this series in Game 5 Wednesday.
“This is what makes an average team from a great team,” Antetokounmpo said. “…You have an opportunity to be up two games, and we were all ready.”
Before the game, Antetokounmpo said the Bucks already did their job by winning one in Boston. That sparked questions about their urgency tonight, but they quashed those with a spirited effort.
Questions for the Celtics are only beginning, and they start with Irving. He reignited speculation into his impending free agency a few months ago, and this is the type of playoff loss that could send him packing. Game 5 might be important for nothing else but to convince him that Boston did better than to just get steamrolled.
Winning that game would likely require better play from Irving, who had 23 points and 10 assists tonight – but on 7-of-22 shooting with four turnovers and five fouls. His shooting the last three games (all Milwaukee wins):
- 4-18 (1-5 from beyond the arc)
- 8-22 (2-8 from beyond the arc)
- 7-22 (1-7 from beyond the arc)
The Celtics must also find an answer for Antetokounmpo. After fouling him a lot in Game 3, Boston was more hands-off tonight. So, Antetokounmpo cruised to 15-of-22 shooting, including 13-of-17 inside the arc.
Still, Antetokounmpo attempted 10 free throws. He is a load. Nobody fouled him more than Irving, who called most attention to how “ridiculous” it was Antetokounmpo drew so many fouls in Game 3.
Once again – and maybe foreshadowing this summer – Irving was doing his own thing.