End of game, Celtics win 100-91: Paul Pierce led the way with 25 points and Rajon Rondo added 14 assists as the Celtics out-defended the Bucks. Boston improved to 4-3 on their eight-game road trip and have an opportunity to take over the lead in the Atlantic Division with a win over Philadelphia on Friday.
Fourth quarter, 1:33, Celtics 98-87: Everything that went right for the Bucks during their six-game win streak went wrong for them in this game.
They allowed their opponent to shoot close to 50 percent from the field and were not able to make an impact on the glass, especially offensively. They could not hit their outside shots and Jennings, who had run the team fairly smoothly, reverted to his wild, shoot-first ways while committing more turnovers than assists.
Garnett and Pierce were killing them softly with outside jumpers and patient dribble drives to put away the overmatched Bucks.
Fourth quarter, 5:55, Celtics 90-77: It's not often the Celtics play better defense with defensive leader Garnett on the bench, yet that was exactly what they did when the Big Ticket went to the pine in the fourth quarter.
With Stiemsma manning the five spot with five personal fouls for much of the run, the Celtics stomped the Bucks' defense. Overall in the fourth quarter the Celtics had outscored the Bucks 16-6 and held Milwaukee to two field goals.
Fourth quarter, 9:28, Celtics 80-73: The key to the fourth quarter may be the Celtics' ability to hit shots and avoid the Bucks' fastbreak. The Celtics turned that around early in the fourth by using their own transition game to generate easy points.
"Fast" break might be an overstatement for the Celtics. Pietrus' backdoor layup off a dish from Keyon Dooling in the secondary break and a football pass from Garnett to Dooling for a layup polished off a 6-2 run by the C's to begin the fourth.
End of third quarter, Celtics 74-71: Ellis may end up getting a lot of credit for altering his game to get his new teammates involved. His seven assists don't tell the whole story, though. The newest Milwaukee Buck missed 10 of his first 16 field goals, and entering the final quarter he led the Bucks in shot attempts. The closest teammate in that regard was Ilyasova, with 11 shots.
Still, Ellis has always played better defense than most people gave him credit for, and he troubled Allen on that end of the court in the first three quarters. Garnett, who also seemed to be having a tough night offensively, played his typical solid defense.
Third quarter, 5:36, Celtics 65-62: The first four baskets the second half perfectly illustrated the difference between the teams.
The Celtics scored on two 3's by Pierce in half-court sets, one of which was a busted play. The Bucks scored on two fast breaks sparked by defense.
The Celtics earned a fastbreak point on a three-point play by Pierce, but don't let that fool you. The Celtics wanted to slow down the Bucks and were successful early in the third quarter.
Third quarter, 10:16, Celtics 59-58: Bass returned looking no worse for the wear, but Delfino looked like he may be the next player headed to the bench.
Delfino went down grabbing his face after catching a shoulder from his own teammate, Gooden. The refs correctly kept their whistles silent.
Delfino did not leave the game, so chalk that one up as a flop for the Argentine guard.
Halftime, 58-56: It was only a matter of time before one of the Bucks' runs led to Milwaukee running right over the Celtics.
The Bucks finished off an 11-1 run with a 3-pointer by Carlos Delfino to give them the lead, something they had not done since the first two minutes of the game.
The Celtics are on pace for 112 points. They have had mixed success with this tempo, of course, outlasting the Warriors but running out of steam against the Kings and Nuggets.
The Good: Carlos Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova each scored 12 points in the first half. They did it in very different ways. Delfino hit two 3-pointers in five attempts and hit all four of his free throws, while Ilyasova chased down eight rebounds and went 6-for-8 from the field, with all of his shots coming from in close. … Monta Ellis has never been known for his distributing skills, but he appeared to be a new player in his new surroundings. Ellis handed out seven assists and scored only six points in the first half and has averaged 6.5 assists in his two games since joining Milwaukee. … After picking up an early foul, Paul Pierce seemed to take offense to the aggressiveness of Delfino. Pierce took it out on him at the other end, scoring 11 points to lead the Celtics. … Rajon Rondo dished nine assists with only two turnovers and was 4-for-6 from the field. Kevin Garnett also showed off a solid all-around game with three blocked shots and three assists, a stat combo few players could match.
The Bad: Ray Allen struggled when the Bucks forced him to put the ball on the floor. Allen missed all but one of his four shots in the first half.
The So-so: Mickael Pietrus went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, but he was whistled for a couple of traveling violations, resulting in turnovers. … Drew Gooden is a dependable player down low, but he went just 1-for-6 from the field, had two of his own shots blocked and pulled down only two rebounds.
Second quarter, 3:31, Celtics 50-45: Bass went down quickly after hitting a jump shot over Drew Gooden. Gooden, a physical defender, appeared to get his foot underneath Bass' foot when the Celtics forward landed.
Needless to say, any injury to Bass would be problematic. He left the court favoring one ankle but was walking on the sideline, albeit gingerly.
Second quarter, 7:07, Celtics 44-41: Mike Dunleavy is a rather unassuming 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward. Like any good coach's kid, though, he knows how to make plays.
Dunleavy came off the bench to hit his first three shots, providing the same type of burst off the bench as he has, particularly during Milwaukee's current streak. Like Dunleavy, the Bucks' play might not seem very good, but the uptempo style could swing the score in their favor before the first half is done.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 35-29: Rondo is good for about a highlight a night. Sometimes, those highlights don't count, but who's keeping score, anyway.
Rondo launched a halfcourt shot well after the first-quarter buzzer, and the Celtics came off the bench when the ball flicked through the net. Everyone knew it didn't count — including Rondo — but the shot was a good indicator of how the first quarter went for Boston.
The Celtics shot 15-for-26 from the field, 4-for-5 from deep and even held even in rebounding at 12-12.
First quarter, 2:15, Celtics 30-23: Greg Stiemsma seems to get better by the game, so why do the Celtics feel they need assistance down low?
Stiemsma, who had a small cheering section in the stands by the sound of it, illustrated why the Celtics have concern about depending too much on him staying on the floor. The Wisconsin alum picked up two fouls in a matter of 54 seconds after coming off the bench to spell Garnett.
First quarter, 5:46, Celtics 18-15: Bucks coach Scott Skiles seems to get worked up about nearly everything, but he seemed to have a case when Kevin Garnett blocked a teardrop attempt by Brandon Jennings.
Garnett appeared to touch Jennings' shot after it had begun its downward arc, so the call should have been goaltending. The lack of a call set off Skiles, who picked up a technical foul.
Aside from Skiles' fireworks, Ersan Ilyasova was the headliner of the early minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward had six points off hard cuts and tip-ins after the first five minutes.
8:10 p.m.: The Celtics are 1-0 against the Bucks this season, but do not read too much into that 102-96 Celtics win on the final day of February. The Bucks were a different team then and had not yet learned how to play without center Andrew Bogut.
Bogus has since be traded to Golden State, but Milwaukee had begun their current six-game win streak even before that deal. The secret to their success without the elite 7-footer was to run, run and run. With the addition of Monta Ellis and a matchup against the slow-mo C's, expect the Bucks to speed it up again in this game.
7:45 p.m.: Help is on the way.
The Celtics are reportedly close to signing Ryan Hollins, a 7-foot center out of UCLA who is a veteran of four teams despite playing less than six seasons. Once he clears waivers Thursday evening, Hollins will finalize the deal and could be with the team as early as Friday in Philadelphia, according to several reports.
Hollins would be arriving to the Celtics at just the right time. The Sixers' loss to New York on Wednesday dropped them into a tie with the Celtics in the loss column in the Atlantic Division standings. A win in this game and another one Friday would vault the C's into the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field.
The probable starters appear below.
8 a.m.: The Celtics continue their tour of cities that contain NBA teams contending with the C's for a playoff spot by taking on the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
The Bucks are chasing the Celtics and Knicks in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and after winning six straight games, they have become a legitimate threat. They went all in on this season, trading franchise center Andrew Bogut to the Warriors for shooting guard Monta Ellis. Ellis is not as good a player as Bogut, no matter how many points Ellis scores, but Bogut is not helping anybody right now as he recovers from a broken ankle.
The pairing of Ellis and Brandon Jennings is a backcourt matchup from hell for the Celtics, who have struggled with speedy guards like Marcus Thornton and Ty Lawson on this trip.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
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