Celtics-Bucks Live: Jared Sullinger, C’s Forget What Works in Post in 92-85 Loss

Brad StevensFinal, Bucks win 92-85: A night that started out looking so promising for the Celtics fell apart quickly, and they became the first team in nearly a month to fall to the lowly Bucks.

The Celtics (7-12) collapsed in the second quarter, when they were outscored 28-14 to wipe out an eight-point first-quarter advantage to enable the Bucks (3-13) to snap an 11-game losing streak. For once, the Celtics didn’t turn the ball over much, and they didn’t give up many second-chance opportunities, either.

They just didn’t come with 48 minutes’ worth of effort on the second leg of a back to back. Jared Sullinger led Boston with 21 points, but the Celtics stopped looking for him after his strong start while the Bucks kept feeding O.J. Mayo, who scored 22 points in what has been an underwhelming season for the Bucks guard. Brandon Knight also scored 20 for Milwaukee, while Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green each had 18 points for Boston.

Sullinger had just six of his 21 points after halftime.

John Henson had 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks while doing the dirty work for the Bucks, who were clicking offensively. The Bucks shot 8-for-17 from three and recorded 28 assists on 36 field goals.

Fourth quarter, :54.9, Bucks 90-81: That will probably do it. Down by seven at 88-81, the Celtics were one good offensive possession from cutting the deficit to five or four and making this a game. But Crawford drove and dished to Sullinger, who was stripped, leading to the clinching layup by Knight at the other end.

Fourth quarter, 1:38, Bucks 88-78: This just is not the Celtics’ night — but it is the Bucks’.

The Celtics dug their own grave with a lack of effort and dedication to getting the ball inside after their hot start, and the Bucks’ engine didn’t stop roaring after the Celtics let them get jumpstarted. Mayo is now up to 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting to lead all scorers.

Avery Bradley fouled out of the game, and Sullinger and Crawford, both with four personals, might not be far behind.

Fourth quarter, 5:09, Bucks 80-71: Sully and the Celts may have something brewing here.

The defense has clamped down, Wallace has jump-started his listless team with his relentless effort and Sullinger, Green and Crawford have given Boston good offensive possessions to get to the foul line.

Fourth quarter, 7:23, Bucks 80-63: With effort like this, the Celtics will get the loss they deserve. After Green’s 3-point attempt clanked away, neither Green nor Wallace attempted to get the offensive rebound. That’s fine, except one of them at least should have accounted for Gary Neal leaking out.

Nope. Neal knocked down a wide-open short jumper to extend the Bucks’ lead to a game-high 17 points.

Fourth quarter, 8:56, Bucks 76-63: Maybe the Bucks won’t cool off after all. However, the Celtics could help their cause by finding some offensive option other than Sullinger.

Crawford and Green have had their moments, but neither has produced consistently to make the Bucks sweat. Sullinger might be shackled a bit in the rest of the way with four personal fouls as a result of some tight officiating of Boston’s best player.

End of third quarter, Bucks 70-63: Everything is going Milwaukee’s way right now. In a way, that’s a good thing for the Celtics.

Jordan Crawford had a bad defensive lapse and Vitor Faverani tossed a pass intended for Jeff Green straight out of bounds, but for the most part the Celtics haven’t played terribly aside from the second quarter. The Bucks just refuse to miss.

Mayo and Giannis Antetokounmpo in particular are feeling it, shooting 12-for-18 combined from the field. The Bucks have knocked down six of their 11 attempts from beyond the arc. None of those gaudy percentages are likely to hold for an entire game, which means the Celtics have another 12 minutes to make up a workable seven-point deficit — and hope the Bucks cool off.

Third quarter, 2:54, Bucks 62-58: Not sure where this version of Mayo has been all season, but the Bucks sure could have used him before tonight.

Mayo has 20 points with almost three minutes left in the third quarter, more than five points above his season scoring average. He’s posting the lowest offensive efficiency of his career with 91 points per 100 possessions and has failed to crack double digits in five of his last six games.

His shot hasn’t been working all season like it is now. He is 8-for-13 from the field for 61.5 percent, compared to his season field goal percentage of .396.

Third quarter, 5:39, Bucks 59-51: Sullinger continues to be aggressive at both ends, if the refs like let him. Sully delivered a clean, hard foul to Khris Middleton on the break, slapping the ball out of Middleton’s hands out of bounds. But the refs issued Sullinger a flagrant type one foul for the conatc. 

Halftime, Bucks 47-41: So the Bucks’ recipe for victory is to let the Celtics take a double-digit lead? OK, just checking.

After the Celtics burst out of the gate to take an 11-point lead, the Bucks surged back to lead by as many as eight. Their backcourt of Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo powered the comeback with 24 of their team’s 47 points.

The Celtics had loads of success going to Jared Sullinger in the post against some slighter Bucks defenders early, but they got away from that and it cost them. Still, Sullinger has 15 points and was able to post successfully after the Bucks made their run, so the Celtics should re-dedicate themselves to getting Sully the ball after the break.

Ball movement and protecting the ball are key, but it’s tough to have both. The Celtics have just four turnovers, which is a great improvement for them, but just nine assists are not enough for a team that doesn’t have a lot of players who can create their own shot off the dribble.

Second quarter, 4:38, Bucks 41-33: The Celtics should beware — or should we say, they should “fear the deer”?

Mayo drains a three to extend Milwaukee’s lead to nine points and Stevens wants another timeout just over a minute after his last timeout. The Bucks are suddenly draining everything. They’re better than 50 percent from the field and Mayo is the first player in double figures with 12 points.

Second quarter, 5:44, Bucks 36-32: Stevens noted before Friday’s game that he prepares for what a team is capable of, not how it’s played so far. The Bucks are showing why.

After their slow start, the Bucks have stormed back behind O.J. Mayo and John Henson, capitalizing on some lackadaisical defense by the Celtics. The Bucks are still moving the ball, getting up to 11 assists on 16 baskets, but the Celtics’ breakdowns have given Milwaukee plenty of lanes to pass through.

Second quarter, 8:25, Celtics 32-27: The first guard off the bench is … Keith Bogans.

MarShon Brooks still can’t crack the lineup with Courtney Lee injured, which should tell everyone exactly where Brooks sits in the Celtics’ depth chart — low. That said, Celtics fans should not think Bogans is some scrub just because he hasn’t played much this season because of illnesses.

Bogans played some pivotal minutes for the Nets last season and is a respected veteran leader and defender. It’s not like Stevens is emptying his bench by playing Bogans early here.

End of first quarter, Celtics 27-19: We warned you during Friday’s blowout that the Cavs were baaaaaad. The same warning may be due tonight.

Vitor Faverani and Jared Sullinger are going wild in Milwaukee, where they combined for 15 points in the first quarter. Faverani even finished a couple of pick and rolls nicely, which is something he hasn’t shown a lot of.

The more skills Faverani can add to his arsenal, the more playing time he can earn — and the better the Celtics, who start a very short front line, will be able to fare against opposing bigs.

First quarter, 5:13, Celtics 19-14: Both teams are making stellar decisions with the ball in the early going. Based on their previous results, that’s surprising.

There have been 10 assists on 16 field goals and just one turnover committed so far. Brandon Knight already has three dimes and Jordan Crawford passed up an open wing 3-pointer to hit Jared Sullinger for a short push-shot.

This could turn into a fun, back-and-forth game. Or these teams could remember who they are and revert back to form. Let’s hope for the former.

7:22 p.m.: What’s the matter with the Bucks? Well, predictably, losing one of the biggest defensive difference-makers in the NBA has had a devastating effect on their defense.

Larry Sanders is out at least another couple of weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb, and coincidentally the Bucks have fallen to 24th in defensive efficiency from 12th a season ago. Zaza Pachulia is a hustler, a renowned flopper and a thorn in the Celtics’ side, but he’s no Sanders.

As for the Celtics, Kelly Olynyk and Courtney Lee will miss the game, as neither traveled to Milwaukee with the team, according to reports.

The projected starters appear below.

Celtics
Jared Sullinger
Brandon Bass
Jeff Green
Avery Bradley
Jordan Crawford

Bucks
Ekpe Udoh
John Henson
Khris Middleton
O.J. Mayo
Brandon Knight

5:30 p.m. ET: Jeff Green hasn’t really been keeping up on the Milwaukee Bucks’ season. That’s OK. He has his own things to worry about.

Green incorrectly guessed that the Bucks (2-13) are “playing well” when he was asked to look ahead to tonight’s game after Friday’s victory over the Cavs. The Bucks have lost 11 in a row and are 1-12 since coming back to beat the Celtics in the second game of the season.

The Celtics (7-11), by contrast, have hit a soft spot in their schedule and have capitalized so far. They have won three out of four with wins over Atlanta, Charlotte and Cleveland. While the Hawks are pretty good, the Bobcats, Cavs and Bucks — whom the Celtics play in a home-and-home, starting Saturday — are not.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 9 p.m. ET.