BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ first game as the top team in the Eastern Conference didn’t go as planned.
The Celtics never got in a rhythm during a 103-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics were cold for most of the night as they hit on just 12 of 37 attempts from 3-point land. Boston trailed by only one with 30 seconds to play, but Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) hit a contested fadeaway jump shot to stretch the lead to three with 3.9 seconds remaining.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (22 points) and Khris Middleton (19 points) led the Bucks, while Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points, but only 12 came in the second half.
The Celtics fall to 48-27 with the loss, while the Bucks improve to 39-36.
Here’s how it all went down.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Al Horford
The Bucks got off to an 11-2 start using their length and athleticism to frustrate the C’s.
But, head coach Brad Stevens elected to go small in order to match the Bucks’ lineup, substituting Marcus Smart for Johnson. It paid huge dividends as the Celtics went on an 18-6 run after the switch.
The C’s smaller lineup gave Boston more room to operate, which led to a number of open looks thanks to great ball movement.
The Bucks’ bench outscored the Celtics’ bench 18-9 during the first half, which allowed Milwaukee to take a six-point lead into the break.
The Bucks led by as many as 10 during the second frame, but Thomas scored 20 first-half points to keep the Celtics within arm’s reach.
Middleton led the Bucks with 15 points at the break and Antetokounmpo chipped in with 12.
With a basket during the second quarter, Thomas became the sixth Celtic ever to score 2,000 points in a single season.
THERE FOR THE TAKING
The Celtics trailed by three heading into the final quarter, but the Bucks’ lead swelled to eight with seven minutes to go.
But, Boston’s defense began to clamp down on the Bucks toward the end of the frame. After trimming the lead to two, the C’s forced a turnover, and Marcus Smart turned it into points as he drove down the lane and finished a tough layup to tie the game with under three minutes to play.
The Bucks didn’t fold, however, as Brogdon made back-to-back buckets in the paint to give Milwaukee a four-point lead.
The C’s cut the lead to one with 30 seconds to go, but Brogdon hit a circus heave as the shot clock hit zero to push the lead back to three.
Smart’s last-second attempt wasn’t close and the Bucks grabbed the victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME
“The Greek Freak” is unreal.
The Celtics will take the floor again Friday when they welcome the Orlando Magic to TD Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m ET.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images