Final, Celtics win 108-100: Jared Sullinger delivered in crunchtime to clinch a total team victory for the Celtics.
Jordan Crawford led the Celtics (8-12) with 25 points, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter, but no single player carried the team. Every member of the starting lineup scored at least 12 points while Courtney Lee, back after missing two games with a sprained left knee, led the bench with 11 points.
The Celtics outrebounded the Bucks (3-14), 40-33 and used a barrage of 3-pointers to overcome another Bucks push after Milwaukee fell behind by double digits for the third time in three meetings against the Celtics. The Celtics were 11-for-24 from deep, helping offset a 40-36 Bucks advantage in the paint.
Fourth quarter, :37, Celtics 103-96: This one is just about hitting foul shots now, thanks to Mr. Jared Sullinger.
Brandon Knight closed the gap to 99-96, and the Celtics’ next possession was nothing special. Nothing special, that is, until Sullinger got the ball with the shot clock winding down and drained an 18-footer.
After forcing a Milwaukee miss, the Celtics got the ball and Green went to the line for a pair of free throws. More of that and the Celtics will walk out of TD Gardnen with a win.
Fourth quarter, 1:21, Celtics 99-93: The Bucks just aren’t going away. They know too much about the Celtics’ recent history with leads.
Jeff Green drops a couple of free throws to push Boston’s lead to six points, and they’ll need every point. Nothing is ever going to be easy for this team, that’s for sure.
Fourth quarter, 3:02, Celtics 98-89: The three shall set the Celtics free. With the Bucks stalking within three points on a pair of free throws by John Henson, Crawford and Bradley answered with a pair of in-rhythm threes to swing momentum in Boston’s favor.
With the ball flying around the Celtics’ offensive end again, in a good way, Bass caught the ball on the wing, pump-faked and dribbled into the lane for a short jumper to push the Celtics’ lead to eight points.
Fourth quarter, 7:50, Celtics 84-71: Maybe it’s time for another one of those junk defenses, Larry Drew.
After a timeout to sketch something up, the Bucks have been turned away on one of their two ensuing possessions. Lee has added another floater and Crawford drains a three from the corner to extend the Celtics’ lead to 13 points, one basket shy of their biggest lead in the game.
Fourth quarter, 8:54, Celtics 79-69: Welcome back, Courtney Lee.
When everything had ground to a halt for the Celtics, Lee swooped in and delivered just what they needed. He dribbled into the lane for an eight-foot floater, then received a pass from Green in the corner and drained a three to put Boston up 10.
The Celtics may have been missing Lee’s defense and versatile offense a bit more than any of us thought the last couple of games. He’s got nine points in 13 minutes.
End of third quarter, Celtics 69-63: Stevens and the Celtics were outdone by what Sullinger called “junk” defenses on Saturday. Now the Bucks have thrown a high school 2-2-1 full-court press at the Celtics, and it’s messing with their heads.
Really, the old folks at Hickory High couldn’t be prouder.
The Bucks have kept the Celtics from pulling away by throwing a new defensive look at them whenever the Celtics get into a rhythm. That’s ranged from man-to-man to various types of half-court and full-court zones. Bucks coach Larry Drew is emptying out his bag of tricks to get win No. 3 over the Celtics.
Third quarter, 5:49, Celtics 57-53: After the Celtics opened up the second half in a daze, Brandon Bass has woken them up.
Bass was the first Celtic to try to get to the rim, driving baseline for a physical layup, and he’s stayed active. He is now up to nine points and a game-high seven rebounds, beating out Sullinger by one board for the honor.
The Celtics seem to have taken their NyQuil at halftime, though, because besides Bass they’re all sort of sleepwalking. Maybe a Stevens timeout can pump them up.
Halftime, Celtics 48-41: The first half ended on a much less inspiring note than it started for the Celtics, but it’s still an improvement over their last time on the court.
The Celtics have had a nice, balanced contribution from just about everyone who has played. Crawford owns the team high of 10 points, followed by Sullinger and Bradley with eight points each. Humphries has nabbed seven rebounds in nine surprisingly productive minutes.
The Bucks are shooting a better percentage than the Celtics, 49 percent to 42 percent, but they’ve given up 13 turnovers, which makes things a lot easier on the Celtics.
Second quarter, 3:37, Celtics 45-30: The basketball gods got back at Bradley for his behind-the-backboard number earlier in this game. Bradley got free under the hoop and Crawford found him for an easy layup, but Bradley’s attempt bounced across the rim.
Even so, the Celtics can survive mistakes like those with the way the Bucks are playing. The Bucks are up to 12 turnovers with almost four minutes left in the first half, which is sort of incredible.
Second quarter, 5:46, Celtics 40-29: If the Bucks are going to come back to win this one, they’re going to have to reassert themselves a little. By that, we mean prevent Wallace, Pressey or Lee from getting to the cup at will.
The Celtics’ second unit overcame a shaky start to rebuild Boston’s double-digit lead. Kris Humphries has been a major beneficiary, getting easy buckets and a trip to the foul line thanks to passes off their dribble penetration.
Second quarter, 8:42, Celtics 32-27: Here comes the trademarked Bucks comeback against the Celtics. The second unit has not been as sharp as the first unit, not that anyone fairly can be expected to be. Despite a highlight-reel dunk by Gerald Wallace over Zaza Pachulia, the Celtics have not attacked the Bucks’ “junk” defenses the way Stevens would like.
End of first quarter, Celtics 28-23: When Jordan Crawford is playing like he has been, he’s pretty awesome. The dude just plays all-out, all the time.
Crawford had seven points and a game-high four assists in the first quarter, but the best moment came when he hit the deck to knock the ball out of a Buck’s hand, forcing a turnover that Courtney Lee (who is playing, after all) gobbled up and took in for a layup.
The Celtics were a solid 10-for-21 from the field with just one turnover, which was the deciding factor against the Bucks. Milwaukee shot even better from the field at 50 percent and was even on the glass 10-10, but the Bucks’ six turnovers did them in.
First quarter, 3:27, Celtics 24-15: Avery Bradley has guaranteed he will be played in those wacky basketball highlight mixtape videos until the end of time.
With the shot clock about to expire, Bradley chased down a loose ball bouncing out of bounds on the baseline. He caught the ball, turned in mid-air and tossed a shot over the backboard and through the net.
It’s that type of night so far for the Celtics, who have led by as many as 13 points. Of course, they’ve also led big in both previous meetings against the Bucks, and we all know how that went.
First quarter, 7:13, Celtics 18-9: The Bucks are down by nine points in the first quarter. In other words, they have the Celtics right where they want them.
The Celtics have come out red-hot, particularly from three. They already have three corner 3-pointers — to by Avery Bradley and one by Jeff Green — plus one from the top of the key by Jordan Crawford.
They’re shooting 86 percent from the field and Crawford already has three assists.
7:17 p.m.: Courtney Lee has appeared for warmups, hopping around and jumping for layups. We assume that means he’s playing.
5:57 p.m.: The Celtics have led the Bucks by 15 points and 11 points, respectively, in their first two meetings and lost both. Maybe Brad Stevens told his guys to not try so hard in the early going?
Well, Stevens wasn’t going to go that far, but he would like it if his team — particularly the guards — showed a more consistent effort on defense, regardless of the score.
“That was our biggest problem, I thought,” Stevens said during his pregame media availability on Tuesday. “We let a bad shooting night on our part affect us on both ends. Not only that, we didn’t guard them with the same tenacity we did [the first time we played]. If you don’t do that, you’ll get beat by them.”
Stevens said he was “under the impression” Courtney Lee would play after missing two games with a sprained left knee. Lee theoretically should help the Celtics’ perimeter defense, but it remains to be seen how his knee reacts.
The projected starters are below.
8 a.m. ET: The Bucks have won three games this season. Two of those came in comeback wins over the Celtics. So, if the Celtics get out to a big lead in the early going on Tuesday, beware.
The Bucks (3-13) and Celtics (7-12) meet up for the second time in four days as Milwaukee heads to Boston for the second leg of this home-and-home set. The Celtics missed a chance to move into first place in the Atlantic Division on Saturday, but since the Atlantic is horrible, they can move within a game of first-place Toronto in the loss column with a victory.
Courtney Lee is expected to try to play after missing two games with a sprained left knee. Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice and Kelly Olynyk is still treating a sprained ankle, but neither will play.
Jared Sullinger will try to exploit his size advantage against some of the smaller Milwaukee bigs in ways he didn’t in the last meeting, while the Bucks will try to stay perfect against the Celtics. The worse news of all for the Bucks is that this is their second-to-last meeting of the season with the Celtics, who they won’t see again until Feb. 10.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.