The Boston Celtics came up just short against the Milwaukee Bucks in the two teams' first seeding game to kick off the NBA restart in Orlando. It wasn't quite as close as Thursday night, where the Pelicans and Clippers lost to the Jazz and Lakers, respectively, by a combined four points. But Celtics-Bucks went down to the wire, and while Boston ultimately came up short, they can feel as good about the loss as possible considering the circumstances.
For starters, had a ref decision or two gone a different direction, Giannis Antetokounmpo could have easily been given his sixth foul in the last two minutes. Boston got the short end of the stick when the refs reviewed Giannis' low blow against Daniel Theis and determined it was not a flagrant foul, or even a foul at all. They have a legitimate gripe in that particular regard. Playing the blame the refs game is as old as basketball is, and the Celtics were vocal about their displeasure after the contest.
On the side of things the Celtics can actually control, the fact that the game was tied with less than two minutes left is pretty remarkable considering how little they got from their three best players. Kemba Walker played only 19 minutes. Jayson Tatum shot 2-18 (!!!) from the field and finished with all of five points. Jaylen Brown notched 22 points but only shot 6-15 from the field and, most notably, 3-10 from deep. Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward were the only reasons they even kept it close. The Celtics often lose games where Smart is the leading scorer, but they nearly won this one and it came against the best team in the league.
This was the first and last time Boston would play Milwaukee before the playoffs began. While they obviously would have rather won the contest, the Celtics should feel confident if they do end up meeting the Bucks again in the Eastern Conference Finals with a berth to the championship round on the line. Brown and Tatum won't shoot 8-33 every game in a seven-game series, and once the games really start to matter, Brad Stevens will let Walker loose. The Bucks were the juggernaut of the league all season, but even after a four-month hiatus and a strange acclimation period, the Celtics gave them a run for their money once more.