It would be easy for Celtics fans to point the finger at Marcus Smart for what went down Wednesday night at TD Garden.
After the Bucks took a very late lead in Game 5, Boston had a chance to score a potential game-winning basket following a side-out with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart ultimately received the in-bound pass and drove toward the basket along the baseline, but Jrue Holiday blocked his shot attempt and also managed to maintain possession for Milwaukee.
That proved to be the self-inflicted dagger for the Celtics, who suffered a 110-107 loss and now trail 3-2 in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series.
The optics on Smart during that crucial sequence obviously aren’t great. But during an appearance Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand,” C’s head coach Ime Udoka explained why Smart isn’t to blame for Boston not converting on its penultimate possession of the pivotal contest.
“We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to,” Udoka said. “We had some off-side action, bringing a specific player on their team up into the action to get the switch. We knew how they’d be defending it. Didn’t get into it quick enough and get the ball where we wanted. So, Marcus had to go make a play — five-second count counting down and no timeouts. Nothing to blame Marcus about that at all. It was really our lack of execution overall as a team.”
Even if Smart made a poor decision in that situation, he shouldn’t shoulder the bulk of the blame for the Celtics’ Game 5 loss. Boston, as a team, didn’t want it as much as Milwaukee down the stretch and it will need to flip that script Friday at Fiserv Forum if it wants to extend its season.