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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: What went wrong with the Boston Celtics this season?

#Cs

The Boston Celtics have been eliminated from the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping Game 5, 116-91.

The Celtics had arguably the highest expectations of any team in the league going into this season with many projecting them to reach the NBA Finals.

They failed to hit their stride throughout the year and never truly lived up to those expectations, resulting in a disappointing elimination in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

So what went wrong for Boston this season?

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Gordon Hayward - understandably - never truly got back to being himself.

While there were certainly flashes of the All-Star from Utah, Hayward couldn't deliver consistently which hurt Boston's ability to find its identity and carve out spots in the hierarchy. When he looked like the Hayward of old, the Celtics played like the title contender many thought they'd be at the start of the season. All the evidence you need is the fact that Boston went 7-0 in games he scored at least 20 points this season, five of which came on the road including an emphatic 33-point win at Oracle Arena. When he's attacking with confidence and playing with reckless abandon, Hayward brings a level of energy that's not only contagious to the rest of the lineup but difficult for opponents to match.

The Hayward we saw over the final few weeks of the regular season is not the one that showed up in the postseason. I have full confidence that he'll return 100% next season and finally look like the player Boston signed in the summer of 2017. But in May of 2019, it's easy to pinpoint the lingering disappointment of a lost season to the struggles that continue to follow his horrific injury suffered in October of 2017.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Some of you may not agree with me but I put a lot of the Celtics' shortcomings on Brad Stevens.

Stevens has been praised since arriving in the NBA as being one of the most brilliant minds in basketball. He's taken teams with lesser talent and figured out a way to help them overachieve their expectation. This season was his chance to prove he was truly amongst some of the game's best coaches. He had - on paper anyway - one of the most talented rosters in the league. A full offseason and regular season to figure out how to best use each individual talent, what lineup combinations would work and how to get all 12 men to buy into a team-first mentality.

For one reason or another, it never came together and a season that started with championship aspirations ended in just the second round of the playoffs.

Who knows what next season's roster looks like but there's no doubt in my mind that Stevens will always look back on this year and hoped he could've done more. He left a lot to be desired with the talent he had, and hopefully, for Celtics' fans, he learned from this lacklustre campaign.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): This is an easy answer for me - everything.

Everything went wrong for the Celtics this season. This was a team that was projected to win 59.5 games, adding two All-Stars after falling one game short of reaching the NBA Finals the season before.

Just about everybody projected this team to go to The Finals and in return, they lost in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

They never figured out their chemistry, never found a flow on offence, their defence was inconsistent all year and they overall didn't play great team basketball.

Starting with chemistry, it was a season of peaks and pits. Led by Kyrie Irving, the locker room never seem to find it's stability. Part of what made the Celtics so great the season prior and recent seasons in the past was their grind-it-out identity, their willingness to play for each other and ultimately putting the team and winning first. This season was none of the aforementioned.

You could still make a case that on paper, this team has the most offensive talent on their roster top-to-bottom. Unfortunately, we never got to see that unleashed to it's full potential because the ball often stuck to individual players with guys forcing their own shots as opposed to playing in the flow of an offence.

Defensively, they had their moments looking like a top defence in the league. But their inconsistency on the defensive end was their downfall as they struggled to maintain focus on D game-in and game-out all season. The playoffs provided a great example of that, shutting down the Pacers in the first round and locking up Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Game 1, then allowed 123 points in Games 2 and 3, 113 points in Game 4 and 116 points in Game 5.

All-in-all, everything went wrong for Boston and it was an extremely frustrating season.

Benyam Kidane (BenyamKidane): This is not how we expected things to go for Kyrie Irving

While Irving gave the Celtics their best chance of success, this season didn't exactly go to plan - from his leadership, to calling out players and the drama that surrounded the team all season, Irving was in a unique position in his career as the franchise leader on a team with title aspirations, albeit a team that wasn't always on the same page.

Given their talent-laden roster, many assumed they would be able to 'flick the switch' come the postseason, but the best teams are built on good habits and the Celtics struggled to find any rhythm or identity in the regular season and it showed as they unravelled in the final four games of the series against the Bucks.

Getting his teammates going was one issue, but for Irving, who is as reliable a postseason performer the league has, just couldn't produce when it mattered most.

Over five games against the Bucks, he averaged 20.4 points per game, 6.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds, shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from the three-point line. The Celtics were always going to go as far as Irving took them, but without his usual offensive production, Boston just couldn't cope.

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