But it’s not meant to be this time — Pierce gets off a fallaway jumper from mid-range as time expires in this one, but it rims out and the Bucks emerge with an 86-84 win at the Bradley Center. Make it 10 wins in the last 11 for the host Bucks, who continue their ascent through the Eastern Conference ranks; the Celtics snap a four-game win streak with a tough road loss.
Fourth quarter, 8.6 seconds, Bucks 86-84: Jennings wanted to drive that final dagger through the Celtics’ hearts, but he couldn’t get it done. A huge miss in a crucial moment from Jennings, and a Ray Allen rebound with just over eight seconds to play breathes new life into the Celtics. They’ve got a shot — literally, probably just one shot — to stay alive.
Fourth quarter, 53.2 seconds, Bucks 86-84: Kevin Garnett had been quiet for the entire fourth quarter, but he chose a very good time to speak up. A nice kick out from Paul Pierce finds KG at the top of the key for an open mid-range jumper, and that of course is his shot. He nails it, the Celtics are back within two, and the Bucks need to regroup. A quick timeout from Scott Skiles with under a minute now left to play.
Fourth quarter, 1:34, Bucks 86-82: A three-point play from Rondo thanks to a careless foul from Ilyasova brings the Celtics back — and rather than stay composed and do the little things to pad their lead, the Bucks are pressing. Jennings and Delfino each force an unnecessarily rushed, long jumper, and a Perkins rebound on the Delfino missed 3 puts the ball back in the Celtics’ hands. The Bucks still have the advantage, but the Celtics are looking like the smarter, more composed team heading into the final minute and a half of this game.
Fourth quarter, 2:42, Bucks 86-79: Now the Celtics are starting to come undone. Bogut, Salmons, Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova have teamed up to fuel a 10-0 run for Milwaukee in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics are beginning to look fatigued defensively as the young, aggressive Bucks continue to push the tempo. And now it’s too late for the Celtics to slow down and play methodical basketball. They’re down seven with less than three minutes to play, and they need to force the issue and spark a quick comeback.
Fourth quarter, 4:01, Bucks 81-79: The back-and-forth of this game has just been beautiful — every possession is well executed, every pass is with purpose, every shot is a smart one. Both teams are just firing on all cylinders. And the Celtics had been out in front for all of the second half, but that changes at the four-minute mark. A picture-perfect three-point jumper from John Salmons puts the Bucks in front for the first time since the half, 81-79. The Celtics have returned to their starting five, looking to finish strong with their lineup at full strength. They’ll need to keep up their perfect execution down the stretch, as the Bucks aren’t giving them anything easy.
Fourth quarter, 5:58, Celtics 76-72: Unsung hero in this game for the Bucks: Carlos Delfino. Not only has the Milwaukee swingman shot 7-of-14 tonight for 19 points, but he’s also pulled down six rebounds and played stellar defense on the wings against Pierce, Allen and Marquis Daniels. The Bucks as expected refuse to die quietly, with Delfino and Jennings hitting countless jumpers to keep the Bucks within striking distance.
Fourth quarter, 8:03, Celtics 70-68: And now tensions flare. After an authoritative dunk from Bogut and a block on the following possession, Bogut makes a long pass to Brandon Jennings for a fast-break bucket. Only Glen Davis swoops in to violently contest Jennings shot, and both youngsters topple to the floor in the collision. Davis comes back up and head-butts Jennings a little bit on his way up — intentional or not, it draws a whistle.
The eventual decision is a double technical, which doesn’t seem fair — if you watch the play carefully, Davis doesn’t make any effort to bump Jennings after the play. Rather, Jennings goads him into it by hovering directly over Davis as he stands up. Davis barely even knew what was going on, and he got whistled for it. A bizarre call on a bizarre play, but in any event, Jennings heads to the line after the shooting foul.
Fourth quarter, 9:04, Celtics 68-66: The Celtics take the floor for the fourth quarter with a slight variation of the second unit — Paul Pierce is the lone starter on the floor alongside a group of backups. And that group is enough to play the Bucks to a stalemate, apparently — through three minutes, the Bucks have scored just once, on a short floater from Brandon Jennings. The C’s remain out in front, just barely, although a few insurance buckets right about now certainly wouldn’t hurt.
End of third quarter, Celtics 68-64: The captain takes over. Six straight points from Paul Pierce are all the Celtics need to surge into the lead as the third quarter comes to a close; Pierce now has 12 points and three boards, and the Celtics are back to a four-point edge. The Celtics are now 17-for-20 from the free throw line in this game; the Bucks are 8-for-8. That’s where being physical can get you. The C’s performance at the charity stripe has been a huge factor as they start to pull away.
Third quarter, 3:01, 59-59: The physical intensity of this game has been noticeably kicked up a notch — first Rondo drives the lane and crashes down for an emphatic put-back of a KG miss, slamming it down and hanging on the rim for longer than the duration of the Gettysburg Address. Then Rasheed recklessly hacks Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the other end, getting the Bucks fired up; one possession later, Bogut slams home a huge dunk of his own, tying the game. We’re starting to see some up-tempo basketball as the game remains close and the two teams trade baskets.
Third quarter, 6:17, Bucks 55-53: A series of defensive lapses from the Celtics enables a 9-0 run for the Bucks, broken only by a pair of free throws from Rajon Rondo. The Celtics have been inconsistent defensively from possession to possession — they double-team Bogut and that frees up John Salmons for an open jumper, then they double Salmons and Bogut cruises in for a dunk. They’ve got to be able to stop both guys at once to have a chance in this game.
Third quarter, 9:26, Celtics 51-46: It was the bench who gave the Celtics the lead in this game, back in the second quarter; now in the third, it’s the Big Three that keeps them out in front. First, Kevin Garnett knocks down a nice mid-range jumper coming off a well-timed pass from Ray Allen; then KG feeds Paul Pierce on the wing for a long three and a five-point Boston lead. The C’s offense has really found a rhythm here in the third, with the men in green making the extra pass and finding the open man for the smart, high-percentage shot.
Halftime, Celtics 46-42: We knew coming into this game that the Bucks led the NBA in field goal attempts this season, and the key to winning this game was limiting their sheer volume of shots — defensive rebounding, minimizing turnovers and the like. We’re at the break, and the C’s haven’t done that. In fact, both teams are shooting an identical 17-for-34 from the field. So the difference? It’s free throws. The Celtics have drawn 10 fouls and gone 9-for-12 from the line, whereas they’ve only been whistled for five personals. The Bucks have only gotten a grand total of three attempts from the charity stripe in this game. Rajon Rondo is 4-for-5 from the line and has led the Celtics with eight points and four assists in the first half; KG has eight points and nine boards of his own. The Celtics cling to a four-point lead.
Second quarter, 3:28, Celtics 39-37: The Celtics don’t get a lot of transition buckets against a speedy team like the Bucks, but they ones they do get, they make ‘em count. The Celtics reclaim the lead on a huge dunk from Kevin Garnett off a nice outlet pass by Ray Allen and a pretty feed from Rajon Rondo, and momentum is starting to swing the way of the visitors in this thing. The Celtics are starting to neutralize Bogut, Jennings has been a non-factor tonight, and the C’s appear to be in control.
Second quarter, 6:35, Bucks 35-34: Finley said before tonight’s game that all he wanted out of his debut was to do a few little things right and help the Celtics get a win. Looks like he’s already done much more than that. Finley knocks down back-to-back jumpers, first a long two from the left side and then a 3-ball, and the Celtics take the lead for the first time since 2-0. But thanks to Brandon Jennings, the 3-point assassin, that lead doesn’t last long. Doc might want to move back to the starters soon if he wants to seize control of this game before halftime.
Second quarter, 9:06, Bucks 28-27: We have a Michael Finley sighting here in the second quarter, with the veteran shooting guard entering the game and immediately being called for a charge as he tries to plow through Ersan Ilyasova. Not a triumphant opening play for Finley, but things can only look up for here. Five points from Marquis Daniels and Glen Davis are enough to keep the Celtics within striking distance in this one, as the Bucks’ offense begins to struggle.
End of first quarter, Bucks 24-22: How do the Celtics fail at stopping Andrew Bogut? Let me count the ways. First there’s the Rasheed method, which entails getting in front of him under the basket but watching idly as he gets off an easy hook shot uncontested. Then there’s the Glen Davis technique — Big Baby gets in front of Bogut, gets put on a poster and then flops harder than a trout in a fishing net as Bogut finishes the dunk. Bogut has 10 points and six boards in the first quarter alone; if not for two Nate Robinson 3′s toward the end of the quarter, this game wouldn’t be close.
First quarter, 3:13, Bucks 20-12: Make it a 14-2 run for the Bucks, as the Celtics’ starting five has just looked lifeless to start this basketball game. Doc Rivers sticks with his starters pretty steadfastly in the first quarter, though, and it’s nearly a full nine minutes before he finally decides to stir things up by adding Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels into the mix. The Celtics need to either find someone who will stand up to Bogut inside, or get someone to knock down a few jumpers from outside. They’ve yet to find either one.
First quarter, 5:54, Bucks 14-10: One of the big reasons the Bucks have improved so much this season: the evolution of Bogut’s game offensively. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft has become a more versatile scoring threat this season as he nears his prime at age 25, and he shows it here against the Celtics, leading the Bucks on an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead in the middle of the first quarter. Bogut has six points, a game high; the Celtics are 3-for-10 from the floor as a team.
First quarter, 9:02, 6-6: We knew going into this game that the key matchup would be the Celtics’ bigs against Andrew Bogut, and it looks like the Bucks’ big man has the early advantage in that department. Bogut is getting inside with ease, either scoring or drawing a foul from Kendrick Perkins, while Perk is settling for tougher shots than usual, and Kevin Garnett is jacking up long 2′s from the top of the key. The Celtics’ shot selection will catch up to them if they don’t do something about it.
6:34 p.m.: Tuesday night brings a matchup of two teams that have surged out to strong winning streaks in March. Tuesday night we see two teams skyrocketing up the Eastern Conference ranks. Tuesday night we see two squads that are sending a message: Come playoff time, they’ll each be a force to be reckoned with. So Tuesday night, the center of the basketball universe is … Milwaukee
The Celtics, winners of four straight games, head to the Brew City this fine Tuesday night to take on a Bucks squad that’s shocked the world with three straight victories and nine in their last 10 games. Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut and newcomer John Salmons have brought their A-games over the past couple weeks, and the Bucks are making a run at the No. 5 seed in the East — or perhaps more.
One of these teams has to lose tonight, believe it or not. The Celtics are determined not to let it be them.