BOSTON — There’s no crying in basketball, but Brad Stevens can get close to tears after losses like Friday’s.
The Celtics frittered away a 22-point advantage in their 105-98 loss the Bucks, stunning the fans at TD Garden for their team’s home opener. Spurred by 10 fourth-quarter points by Zaza Pachulia, the Bucks flipped the script on the Celtics after Boston’s dominant first half.
Afterward, Stevens’ trademark 12-year-old smile was nowhere to be found.
“I want losing to hurt, first and foremost,” Stevens said. “Losing should hurt. But I don’t want it to be something that lingers. I think you lose, you learn from it, you move on.”
A gloomy Jeff Green confirmed that the defeat stung the players as much as it stung the coach.
“It does,” Green said. “That was a bad loss. We did everything right to get the lead. Then we did everything wrong to lose it. We deserved to lose this game.”
The Celtics capitalized on every opportunity to attack in the first half, using every loose ball, rebound and turnover as a chance to run. If it was not a perfect first 24 minutes, it was enough to keep a fellow rebuilding club like the Bucks at bay.
Suddenly, that opportunism disappeared in the second half. The Celtics were outscored in the paint 20-8 and forced only one turnover after halftime, while allowing the Bucks to hit four of the seven 3-pointers they attempted. It was as sloppy a second half as the first one was solid. The excuse of “selfishness” is just a crutch.
Courtney Lee did not want to hear about an adjustment period for the Celtics with all their new pieces. As of Friday, the Celtics were a month into the new campaign. They hadn’t just been thrown together the day before the regular season opened on Wednesday.
“How long is that going to be our excuse?” Lee said. “We had training camp, we had preseason and now we’ve got a couple games under our belt. That excuse is running thin. We’ve got to nip it in the bud and just go out there and continue to play for 48 minutes.”
Lee had one of his best games as a Celtic, scoring 13 points with three rebounds and three steals. He bounced back after missing a layup immediately after entering the game and hit three key runners during the meat of the Celtics’ push to extend their lead.
No speeches necessary
Rajon Rondo was on the bench during the game, as usual, and he rocked a fake beard in homage to the Red Sox while making a speech to the fans prior to the game. He was even walking around the locker room, talking on his cell phone, after the game.
The Celtics’ sidelined point guard did not offer any words of encouragement to the team during the game or any solemn advice after the loss, however. It wasn’t necessary.
“Not need,” Jeff Green said. “We all know what the hell we did wrong. We all know how we lost the game. If somebody’s not hurting on this team, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
One area the Celtics could have used Rondo’s input in was their passing game. The Celtics recorded just 13 assists on 34 field goals, despite showing signs of sharing the ball well in the preseason. The Bucks had 18 assists on 35 field goals.