End of game, Celtics win 102-96: For the second straight game, Kevin Garnett willed the Celtics through a game they by all rights should have lost. After making a comeback from a 17-point deficit, the Bucks could not overcome Garnett's contributions on offense and defense.
Garnett was the only Celtic to score in the final 3:37 of the game, grabbing a huge defensive rebound and dropping two free throws with the outcome in doubt. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Rajon Rondo delivered a triple-double performance of 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics (17-17), who climbed back to .500 and put an extra game between themselves and the Bucks (14-21) in the race for the Eastern Conference's eighth playoff seed.
Fourth quarter, :14.4, Celtics 100-96: Garnett accepted an intentional foul by the Bucks and converted both free throws. That makes Garnett the only Celtic to score in the last 3:22 of game action.
Fourth quarter, :24.4, Celtics 98-96: The Celtics last scored with 2:56 left in the game. The Bucks reeled off 13 straight points. And the Celtics are in another nail biter.
Fourth quarter, 1:19, Celtics 98-93: It took more than 46 minutes for Brandon Jennings to generate his own offense, but when he did, he went all the way.
After Dunleavy scored a bobbling layup and two free throws, Jennings nailed a 3 to pull Milwaukee within eight. Rondo then threw an ill-advised pass early in the shot clock, and Jennings stepped back on the break to drill another 3 and make it a five-point game. The Bucks hadn't been that close since the 5:42 mark of the third quarter.
Fourth quarter, 1:57, Celtics 98-85: Wilcox left the game to a well-deserved hand after grabbing 13 rebounds, his second straight game reaching double figures in boards.
If Wilcox got a round of applause, Garnett and Rondo will get an ovation. Rondo assisted a jumper by Garnett to give the C's point guard 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season. Garnett's jumper gave him 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots, along with his usually strong defense.
Fourth quarter, 7:41, Celtics 86-71: Garnett and Wilcox kept up the energy the Celtics bigs put together in the third quarter. The result was an even wider lead for the Celtics in the fourth quarter.
Garnett scored a jumper to begin a 9-4 run by the C's to open the final frame. Wilcox put back his own miss to give the Celtics a 15-point advantage, their largest of the game.
End third quarter, Celtics 77-67: By hitting the boards and limiting turnovers, the Celtics outscored the Bucks 27-13 in the third quarter to surge into a double-digit lead.
Bass played a big scoring role in the frame, scoring nine points, while the Celtics worked to take back the lead in the rebounding battle. Through three quarters, the C's held a 38-36 advantage in rebounds.
Third quarter, 2:54, Celtics 75-64: As if they flipped a switch, the Celtics' big men began to match the Bucks' effort in the post and the Celtics are better for it.
Wilcox worked a dunk and a fastbreak layup off simply going to the hoop, and Boston held its largest lead of the game at nine points.
Allen also benefited from the bigs' energy, since the Bucks defenders suddenly could not crowd the shooter. That opened Ray up for a jumper and a shifty driving layup.
Wilcox, who has drawn so much credit for merely running the floor, was the recipient of a football pass by Allen for the layup that forced Bucks coach Scott Skiles to ask for a timeout to talk it over.
Third quarter, 6:45, Celtics 61-60: With KG upping the intensity at both ends of the court, the Celtics turned around their sluggish play early in the third quarter and seized the lead.
Bass' baseline jumper gave the Celtics their first lead since the opening seconds of the second quarter, but Garnett played the biggest role in getting the Celtics to that point.
Garnett scored six points in the first 4:17 to pull the Celtics within one point, and had a chance to tie it on a free throw to end a would-be three-point play. Instead, Bass finished off the 11-6 run with a jumper.
Halftime, Bucks 54-50: In danger of going to the locker room with a nine point deficit or more, the Celtics got a few lucky bounces to close the gap to four points at the half.
Rondo split two defenders for a tough layup with 8.5 seconds left in the first half, and on the ensuing inbounds the Bucks coughed up the ball. Allen fed Rondo, who waited for Dooling to dash back into position. Dooling took the pass from Rondo and nailed a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds on the clock. It was just Boston's third triple of the first half.
The Good: Rondo capitalized on his matchup advantage against Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih, taking the light Jennings into the post and beating the bigger Udrih off the dribble. Rondo led the Celtics in the first half with 13 points and three assists. … Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova tore up the Celtics' front line. Gooden notched 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting and went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, and added a game-high six rebounds. Ilyasova scored 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting. … Jennings has a reputation for being a free shooter, but he was the picture of discipline in the first half. He missed both his shots but handed out seven assists with only one turnover.
The Bad: Paul Pierce once again took a while to get warmed up. He hit all three shots he took, but he only looked to be getting into a rhythm just before the buzzer. … Kevin Garnett's defensive presence can never be questioned, but he went 3-for-10 from the field and had only three rebounds in the first half.
The So-so: Brandon Bass made a few hustle plays and pulled down four rebounds, the most of any Celtic, but his legs did not appear to be there in his second game back after a two-week absence due to a sore knee. Bass scored six first-half points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 shooting from the line.
Second quarter, 3:30, Bucks 47-39: With Gooden, Ilyasova, Sanders, Leuer and Dunleavy, the Bucks simply have too many athletic, long frontcourt players to throw at the Celtics.
When the Bucks weren't outworking the Celtics on the boards, they were stepping back and hitting jumpers. Milwaukee forwards or centers scored nine of the Bucks' first 10 field goals of the quarter.
Second quarter, 6:23, Bucks 37-31: Both Sanders and Garnett were assessed technical fouls.
Second quarter, 6:23, Bucks 37-31: Beno Udrih was the first point guard who seemed unfazed by Avery Bradley's pressure defense. Udrih beat a trap to hit a leaning jumper and then penetrated before hitting Jon Leuer for a foul line jumper.
The score isn't the biggest concern for the Celtics, though. Garnett and Sanders (who had another putback, no big deal) bumped into each other while walking to their respective benches for a stoppage in play and exchanged words. The officials broke it up quickly, but Garnett can ill afford to pick up a technical or get ejected with as well as he's played recently.
Second quarter, 8:47, Bucks 31-28: The broken record is skipping again. Offensive rebounds again gave the Celtics trouble, this time in the form of backup forward Larry Sanders. Pierce failed to box out Sanders on two early second-quarter possessions, leading to easy second-chance points and contributing to Milwaukee's lead.
Keyon Dooling and Bass were able to derive some offense by getting to the free throw line, but the offense is clicking fine. The second-chance points will continue to hurt the Celtics, but at this point is there any use to thinking the Celtics might one day fix that?
End of first quarter, game tied 25-25: The feeling-out phase of the first quarter was ignored by Rondo, who took eight shots and handed out two assists in the first 12 minutes.
Rondo's eight points were second in the game to Ilyasova's 10 points. The Turkish big man looks like he may give the Celtics problems all night.
First quarter, 1:58, game tied 21-21: Ilyasova is exactly the type of player who can give the Celtics a world of trouble. A 6-foot-9 forward who can chase offensive rebounds and hit a midrange jumper, Ilyasova followed the Anderson Varejao blueprint to work the Bucks back into the game.
Rondo was not happy about non-calls on a couple of drives in the middle of the first, and made his feelings known. Considering his recent two-game suspension, Rondo may have to be careful in case he starts to develop a reputation among officials.
First quarter, 5:34, Celtics 14-11: A night after being held scoreless in Cleveland, Rajon Rondo came out with a noticeable desire to get to the hoop. His offensive rebound and immediate pivot for a driving layup, followed by a layup in which he took off past two Milwaukee defenders like a blur, helped the Celtics hold off a quick Bucks run.
Garnett's defense was as sharp as ever early, picking up a blocked shot on a hook shot by Ilyasova and a deflection of a pass by Jennings that would have led to a sure layup.
First quarter, 9:50, Celtics 5-3: Pierce and Allen came off shooting without hesitation, which is something Pierce has been missing of late. It translated to a quick lead for the Celtics.
7:15 p.m.: Two teams coming off a win after a stretch of poor play meet up Wednesday at the TD Garden.
The Celtics, who lost five straight games before opening the second half of the season with a win over the Cavs, try to defend their eighth seed agains the Bucks, who trail by three games in the loss column. The Bucks lost six of seven games before edging the Wizards on Tuesday.
Gooden will be a go for Milwaukee, which means the 10th-year veteran from Kansas won't miss his fourth game in the last five due to injury.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
6:50 p.m.: The Bucks haven't struck fear into the hearts of the Celtics in recent years, but there is reason to suspect this meeting will be tighter.
The Bucks, who have lost four of their last six games against the Celtics, have been the best team in the NBA this month on second-chance points. They squeaked out a one-point win Tuesday on a tip-back by Ersan Ilyasova. The Celtics, meanwhile, have struggled to keep opponents of the offensive glass. The allow 11.5 offensive rebounds per game, the 12th-highest total in the league.
For the second straight night, though, the Celtics may avoid one of their opponent's key post players. Drew Gooden, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes Tuesday, had to leave the game when he hurt his back.
8:30 a.m.: The Milwaukee Bucks feel pretty good about themselves after a last-minute win over the Wizards on Tuesday.
Ersan Ilyasova's tip-in of a Brandon Jennings miss with 2.2 seconds to go gave the Bucks a 119-118 victory in a better-than-expected battle between two sub-.500 teams. Milwaukee (14-20) now visits Boston (15-17) with a chance to post consecutive victories for only the sixth time this season.
The Bucks, who harbored playoff hopes at the beginning of the season, have been beset by injuries. All-Star center Andrew Bogut is likely out for the season with a broken left ankle, Stephen Jackson missed Tuesday's game with a sore hamstring and Mike Dunleavy has been limited to 24 games this season due to a sprained ankle and finger on his shooting hand.
Jermaine O'Neal could be out again Wednesday as the evaluation of his wrist was reportedly rescheduled. Brandon Bass started for the Celtics in O'Neal's absence Tuesday.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
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