BOSTON — The way Jared Sullinger described it, his big shot to essentially clinch the Celtics’ win on Tuesday was pretty simple.
Maybe it was simple, but it definitely wasn’t easy.
“Honestly, it was a double-team,” Sullinger said. “I was just trying to escape the double-team and I saw a little daylight, so I stepped back and just shot the shot.”
Nothing was easy for the Celtics against the Bucks, as has been the case all season between these two teams. The Celtics once again burst out to a big early advantage, leading by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, before the Bucks chipped and chipped away.
When Bucks guard Brandon Knight‘s 3-pointer plopped through the net with 1:10 left in the game, the Celtics’ lead was down to three points, sparking uncomfortable flashbacks to the previous two meetings, when the Bucks wiped out 15-point and 11-point first quarter deficits to win.
The Celtics answered, but not out of any brilliant coaching play sketched up by Brad Stevens. Boston’s offense alternated between stagnant and directionless for most of the second half, and their ensuing possession after Knight’s shot was the latter. But with the shot clock winding down, Sullinger ended up with the ball near the right block with two Milwaukee defenders in his face. He fled to the foul line, lost his handle on the ball briefly and, with no other choice, fired an 18-footer that hit nothing but net.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective enough to let Stevens smile about it afterward.
“I was just thoroughly impressed with the coaching on that play,” Stevens joked. “Got him the ball right where he wanted, did a triple lindy, got the ball and it went in. It’s a good player making a good play and bailing out a bad coach.”