It seems like just yesterday that Brandon Jennings was plowed over by Glen Davis and stood up itching for a fight. The hard foul from Davis, the defiant stand from Jennings, the offsetting technicals — hard to believe it was over a month ago, when the Celtics visited the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
That was laying the groundwork for something bigger.
On Saturday night, the bad blood just kept flowing between the Bucks and Celtics. Again, Davis was right in the middle of it, taking a hard foul from Kurt Thomas late in the fourth quarter and falling to the floor. Just like Jennings a month prior, he stood up ready to challenge Thomas, ready to fight back.
Then came the scuffle just one possession later between Paul Pierce and Jerry Stackhouse, an entanglement that led to a foul called on Stackhouse and an angry tirade from Scott Skiles.
The atmosphere in the Bradley Center as Skiles walked out was undeniable — the Bucks' coach had 19,000 fans on his side, voicing their support. It's that time of year. This Boston-Milwaukee thing has escalated — it's a war. A fight to the death.
"I guess you could say that," Pierce said after Saturday's game. "A couple technicals here, a couple technicals there. I don't know. Maybe setting up something for a long week and a half. We'll see."
That's the thing. If these two teams end up meeting in the first round of the playoffs — and at this point, there's about a 50-50 chance that they will — then tensions are only going to run higher. And they're already mighty high.
"There were some tempers," Doc Rivers said Saturday night. "You know, when guys know there's a chance you're going to play each other [in the playoffs], no one wants to give up any ground. It was one of those 'marking their place' type of games. You could see both teams doing that a little bit."
Even though both teams were without key players — Andrew Bogut for the Bucks, out for the year with a dislocated elbow, and Kevin Garnett for the Celtics just getting some necessary rest — this game still had the same intensity as the previous Boston-Milwaukee game a month prior. Both teams played physical, energetic basketball, and the Celtics won, 105-90, executing more effectively down the stretch.
"It was great," Rivers said. "The only way you're going to beat Milwaukee is matching their energy. Because they're going to bring it. And if you don't match it, they'll beat you."
They'll see more of each other soon. The Celtics travel to Chicago on Tuesday night before returning home to face the Bucks again Wednesday. The Bucks are home against Atlanta before they travel to Boston. After Wednesday night, the Bucks might not have to bother flying home.
These are two teams that could be set up for a long series in the playoffs. And for the Celtics, it was huge to get a win Saturday, to prove they had the upper hand.
"It wasn't a statement win, but it was a good win," Rivers said. "You know, sitting Kevin, giving him rest. The guys, they want to win these last three games, we talked about it before. And coming here, it's tough to win here. They play hard, they're aggressive. We got off to a slow start, and I thought our guys — I thought the second unit, in that one little stretch, got us back even, and then the starters were terrific. A lot of good things tonight."
A lot of good things, a lot of bad ones, a lot of ugly ones. These two teams have a rivalry in the making.