The Celtics took on the Milwaukee Bucks in the Bradley Center in what promised to be a clash of epic proportions – the C’s would seize the 1st position in the Atlantic if they won, the Bucks would … climb out of last place in the East. The victor proved to be Milwaukee, denying the Celtics a division lead and leaving the Knicks in their wake as the worst team in the East.
The first quarter began with some leisurely basketball – both teams didn’t really play anything that looked like defense, so the points piled up rather quickly. Luckily for us, the Celtics managed to pile them up faster, building as much as a 11 point lead in the quarter and finishing it ahead by 8.
The second quarter proved to be more energetic, especially on the Bucks’ part. Antetokounmpo (I wrote this without checking) made a bunch of winning plays, pulling Milwaukee ever-closer. Eventually, the Celtics saw their lead evaporate, then saw the points stack up the wrong way. That happened due to the Bucks shooting crazy good, but then they sort of forgot how to shoot hook shots in the paint. Suddenly, the game was tied again. Then, of course, Brandon Knight caught fire from three, and thus this see-saw quarter ended negatively for the Celts, who went to halftime down 41-47.
The third quarter was pretty disjointed, with a lot of fouls and no team making a legit push. About halfway in, Sullinger made a hard foul to stop a fast break that was inexplicably and stupidly called a flagrant-1 foul. That gave Milwaukee a nice 8 point cushion. The Celtics did respond well, but for every little run the C’s made, the Bucks found an answer. Nothing much really changed during the rest of the quarter – the C’s were still trailing after three 63-70.
The game got out of the Celtics’ hands in the fourth. The Bucks began with a 10-0 run to assume a 17 point lead with 7:23 left. After a timeout, the Celtics returned with more energy, making a spirited run of their own. They brought it relatively close, but every time it seemed they could make it interesting, the Bucks replied with a shot you just shrug about. Green made it intriguing with a long three with a little over a minute left to bring the C’s within 7, but it ultimately was not enough as they suffered a loss to the lowly Bucks 85-92.
Let’s just get to the bullet points for this one:
- Jared Sullinger started off HOT. Before the first timeout of the game at a little less than 5 left in the 1st quarter, he had 9 points (including one three pointer) and 2 rebounds.
- The Celtics had a strong first quarter, racing out to a 11 point lead at one point and finishing it out 27-19. This is the second straight stellar first quarter they’ve put together after a series of disasters in that department to start the season.
- Vitor had an effective bunch of minutes in the first, in which he hit a righty hook, a lefty hook, then proceeded to throw down a poster on Zaza Pachulia. The bench went bonkers, but Faverani himself was pretty nonchalant about it. As the big man said himself once, “My job is to make dunk, then get back on defense”.
- Keith Bogans entered the game in the second quarter. This is news in itself.
- The Celtics’ shooting just became cold in the 2nd. You can’t really say that they we shooting bad shots, they just… missed. Stevens wasn’t liking what he was seeing, though, so he took a timeout. After that, they went to Bass and Sully. That worked much better, sparking a run to tie the game again.
- Sullinger at the half? 15 points, 7 rebounds.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo was troubling the Celtics all night long. Hustle plays and energy scoring were a consistent problem.
- Speaking of hustle plays, the C’s sorely lacked any in the second half. They were getting beat to 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds far too often.
- All game long, the Celtics responded well out of Brad Stevens’ timeouts. The most visible case was in the fourth quarter when they went down 17 and looked like they’d roll over and die. Stevens called for a timeout, and the Celts responded with an energetic run.
- OJ Mayo and Brandon Knight ALWAYS found a way to drill a tough shot – mostly threes – in crucial moments. Both had backbreaker shots in the fourth.
- MarShon Brooks got some run in the fourth. Interesting decision by Stevens, giving Brooks key minutes after snubbing him hard for many games before.
- Did I mention Jared Sullinger? The kid was beasting and feasting to the tune of 21 points and 14 rebounds.
- Two other notable stats lines today: Jordan Crawford (18 points, 5 assists) and Jeff Green (18 points, 6 assists).
The Celtics will resume their chase for glory atop the fabled Atlantic Division on Tuesday, when they meet in another tilt with the Milwaukee Bucks – this time in Boston – at 7:30 PM ET.