MILWAUKEE — In the wake of the Celtics seeing their disappointing season end with a 116-91 obliteration at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of this Eastern Conference semifinal, coach Brad Stevens pointed to one man as the reason for Boston’s failures this year: himself.
“I’ll be the first to say that this, as far as any other year I’ve been a head coach, it’s certainly been the most trying,” Stevens said. I think I’ve done … I did a bad job. At the end of the day, as a coach, if your team doesn’t find its best fit together, that’s on you.
“So I’ll do a lot of deep dives into how to be better.”
The Celtics wouldn’t have to look hard to find ways they could’ve been better Wednesday night in what turned out to be the final time this team will play this year. Boston shot a dismal 31.2 percent from the field, including 7-for-39 from 3-point range.
“I mean, truth be told, it’s no time to be disappointed,” Irving said. “I think that you take your lessons, you take your ass-whooping that they handed us, and you move on.
“It’s a basketball journey. Obviously you want to keep playing, but they put a halt to that, and they deserve the series. They played like they wanted it.”
The Celtics, on the other hand, will go home for the summer wondering what happened to a team that was supposed to be among the NBA’s best, but instead could barely muster home court in the first round and was drummed out by a far superior Bucks team a round earlier than they went home last season.
Now the focus will shift to the summer for the Celtics, when the franchise has many questions it will need to answer. Several players — including Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes — all could become unrestricted free agents, while Terry Rozier will hit the restricted free-agent market.
Then there is the uncertainty surrounding Boston’s possible pursuit of Anthony Davis, who is likely to be traded this summer. How hard the Celtics pursue him could be tied to what Irving decides to do this summer.
“You don’t really think about it,” Stevens said of the potential changes ahead. “We all can pay attention to all the talk and everything else, but you don’t really think about it until it’s over. That’s not really my lane, [though] I’m certainly consulted on it.
“I understand that we didn’t meet the outside expectations and we really rode a roller coaster a lot of the year and it was difficult. But I do think, and I told the guys in there, I did think they showed a lot of character in a lot of different times to keep coming back and stay together. I’ve said from the get-go, this time in the locker room, when they’re all together is great. We just couldn’t find it playing together as well as we had hoped.”
Because they couldn’t, the Celtics are now headed home for the summer — one filled with uncertainty about the franchise’s future. And, as they look back on what has been such a confusing and disappointing season, they will try to find answers that they couldn’t to solve their woes over the past seven months.
“I think [dealing with expectations] was the challenge for our group all year, and we really tried our best,” Horford said. “I feel like everyone in the locker room really gave their best energies, their best effort.
“It looked good, when you looked at it, and all our pieces. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”