Final, Celtics win 102-86: Jeff Green needed a quarter to warm up, but once he did he found his stroke to lead the Boston Celtics to a win.
Green scored 29 points, all except two of them after the first quarter, as the Celtics (19-34) found their rhythm and defeated the Milwaukee Bucks (9-42). The victory was the Celtics’ fourth in their last five games, and their third with Rajon Rondo since he returned from a torn ACL.
Jared Sullinger recorded his sixth straight double-double by posting 13 points and 10 rebounds. The rookies helped make the final minutes fun, as Kelly Olynyk compiled 14 points and 11 rebounds and Phil Pressey finished with 13 points and six assists.
Fourth quarter, 2:48, Celtics 97-82: Green pushed the Celtics over the edge, but the rookies are taking them home. Pressey is feeling good right now, driving and dishing and getting his teammates easy buckets. Pressey had a sweet drive beneath the rim where he tossed a pass back over his shoulder, Steve Nash-style, to Sully for a layup.
Fourth quarter, 5:34, Celtics 90-76: Jeff Green is on fire, working his way up to 27 points, all but two since the end of the first quarter. But he does that sometimes. Kelly Olynyk doesn’t do what he’s doing very often.
Olynyk is rolling, attacking the basket as well as hitting midrange jump shots. He’s finished with his right and his left, off the bounce and off the pass, to rack up 13 points. He also has eight boards as one of the few Celtics players unaffected by Pachulia and company’s nonsense down low.
Fourth quarter, 11:04, Celtics 74-68: Jeff Green is silently dominating and playing the way Celtics fans wish he always could.
Green scores the first four points of the fourth quarter to give the Celtics their largest lead of the game, forcing a timeout by Bucks coach Larry Drew. These teams have never been separated by more than seven points, but Green could shut the door right now.
Or he could disappear and not score again for the rest of the game. Anything within that range is possible.
End of third quarter, Celtics 70-68: As long as they can survive the onslaught of Pachulia’s knees, elbows and fingers, the Celtics might be able to escape with a victory here.
They’re not playing well, but they’re playing just ugly enough to give the Bucks a taste of their own medicine. They have forced 18 turnovers, although they’re still allowing the Bucks to shoot 47 percent overall and 42 percent from three.
Not surprisingly, Knight has slowed down, while Green appears to have found his stride. Green was 3-for-5 from the field for eight points in the third quarter, pushing him to a game-high 18 points overall.
Third quarter, 2:59, Bucks 63-61: It was only a matter of time before Pachulia hurt somebody. We just figured it would be Sully, not Bass. But Bass got the worst of it when Pachulia poked him in the eye — hard — in a scrum underneath the basket.
That came after Pachulia toppled Green and laid on top of him under the other basket. Watch out, Celtics. Pachulia’s coming to lay somebody out.
Third quarter, 4:27, Bucks 63-61: Phil Pressey is having a nice night, making his a rarity among both teams tonight. The two things he needs to fix, though, are his hesitance to shoot and his 15-foot long phantom feet.
Pressey has turned down a few open shots, even though he’s come up with some nice buckets. In addition to his two threes in the first half, he has a runner down the lane to give him eight points on the night.
The weirdest play of this game — and that’s saying a lot — came when Khris Middleton ate it on a fast-break run-out. Pressey was called for a trip, although replays showed Pressey was near midcourt when Middleton went down near the 3-point line. Pressey might want to make use of his invisible tripping abilities in the future.
Halftime, Celtics 49-46: This is a weird game.
The Celtics’ leading scorer, Brandon Bass, has 12 points but hasn’t scored since the first quarter. The Bucks’ leading scorer, Brandon Knight, has 14 points but also has three turnovers and is always poised for a disastrous stretch. The teams have combined for 21 assists on 35 field goals, but they have also committed 19 turnovers between them.
Zaza Pachulia is giving Jared Sullinger fits in the post, picking right up where he left off against former Celtic Kevin Garnett. Pachulia’s obviously affecting Sully, who is just 1-for-6 from the floor and has only two rebounds so far.
Second quarter, 2:49, Celtics 44-41: There’s a reason these teams have 27 wins combined. They’re not great as collectives, so a couple nice plays by one or two players can have a huge swing in this game.
Phil Pressey, who’s not known as a shooter, has canned two 3-pointers. That’s only six points, but it’s enough to help position the Celtics to retake the lead. Aggressive plays by Green and Wallace have given the Celtics the edge on the scoreboard, but be careful. The Bucks could make the next spurt themselves.
Second quarter, 5:51, Bucks 39-36: The Bucks aren’t anything special offensively, especially having tossed the ball the Celtics way 10 times already. But they apparently are even less impressed by the Celtics.
The Bucks zoned up on defense against the Celtics for a few possessions, basically telling the Celtics they were free to shoot. Kelly Olynyk drained an 18-footer, but for the most part, the Celtics have justified the Bucks’ approach by shooting 37 percent.
A zone defense shouldn’t really work in the NBA. The players are supposed to be too refined as shooters, too sharp as passers, for a junk defense — all NBA zones are junk defenses, pretty much — to work. But it’s working for now.
Second quarter, 8:47, Bucks 33-30: Giannis Antetokounmpo plays with energy and enthusiasm. He has joy in his game. He’s always moving, doing something.
Jeff Green is, often times, not that.
Nothing summed up the difference between the two like Green’s steal and jaunt up the court for what should have been a simple dunk. But Green, loping at half-speed, checked his rearview mirror and say the Greek Freak coming up fast.
Green opted to slow up and go up soft with a layup attempt Antetokounmpo blocked — at least, that’s the way it seemed to most people. Green was rewarded with a trip to the foul line, but we knew better.
End of first quarter, Celtics 26-24: Everybody else should consider calling it a night and letting the rest of this game be a one-on-one battle between Bass and Brandon Knight.
Bass and Knight are the first players in double figures in scoring and both have scored close to half of their team’s points. Bass has 12 hard-earned points and four boards against a long, but relatively thin, Bucks front line. Knight has games where he goes off and this has the makings of one of those games. He’s got 10 points so far.
Wallace continues to play well at both ends. He’s come up with two steals and hit a corner three to give Boston the lead. Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless also hit jumpers to give the Celtics the lead, briefly, in a back-and-forth first quarter.
First quarter, 3:52, Bucks 18-14: The Celtics might be having a forgettable night as a team, but Bass is one of their few bright spots. The undersized power forward, who is matched up with the much longer John Henson, has 10 of Boston’s 14 points and is just about the only person keeping his team afloat.
Gerald Wallace is also playing surprisingly well, although his stat line doesn’t show it. Wallace is scoreless (he hasn’t even taken a shot) and he has only one assist. But the Celtics are running their offense through him in the post, and while it’s not the most effective attack, it has generated some open shots.
Guys like Green and Sullinger (each 1-for-4 from the floor) simply aren’t knocking them down.
First quarter, 8:25, Bucks 9-4: If only the Bucks played the Celtics every game, they might be a playoff team.
Winners of two out of three over Boston already, the Bucks are out to an early lead despite holding the worst record in the NBA. They’ve forced the Celtics to miss five of their first seven shots, with Brandon Bass recording both makes. Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger have both missed 3-pointers for the Celtics, who look about as inspired to play the second end of a back-to-back in Milwaukee in February as you’d expect.
6:40 p.m.: As expected, Rajon Rondo will not be in uniform tonight for the Celtics. But Boston will be missing another man in its backcourt as well.
Avery Bradley is out, with an MRI scheduled for Tuesday, coach Brad Stevens told reporters prior to the game. Gerald Wallace and Phil Pressey will start in Rondo and Bradley’s places.
This will be the 11th time this season Wallace and Jeff Green have started as hybrid two/threes. The Celtics are 2-8 in those games.
The Celtics aren’t the only ones shorthanded. The Bucks will be without O.J. Mayo will miss his eighth straight game as he deals with the most serious “illness” ever suffered by mankind. Caron Butler, Larry Sanders and Celtics killer Ersan Ilyasova are all out, as well.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Someone has to win this game. At least, we think so.
The Boston Celtics (18-34) get an up-close look at one of the few teams they can say is in a worse situation than they are when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks (9-41) on Monday night. The Bucks own the worst record in the NBA by a sizable margin, with just two wins in the new year. That’s a span of 19 games.
Of course, the Bucks already have beaten the Celtics twice, so Boston can’t take anything for granted. The Celtics just had their three-game win streak snapped Sunday, when they got dusted by the Dallas Mavericks, and Rajon Rondo is unlikely to play in the second leg of the back-to-back.
As for the Bucks, they only lost by six points to the Houston Rockets in their last game, so there’s that.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m.