Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo, C’s Falter Offensively, Drop Home Opener to Bucks 99-88


Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo, C's Falter Offensively, Drop Home Opener to Bucks 99-88Game over, Bucks win 99-88:
 It is possible that 0-2 has never looked as ugly as it does in Los Angeles. The Celtics' own 0-2 start might not get the same publicity, since they did not add two potential future Hall of Famers in the offseason, but the C's harbored expectations well beyond what they showed in their first week of play.

Kevin Garnett had 15 points, while Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 11 assists and three steals. But nobody in a Boston uniform did much of anything on either end of the floor. Brandon Jennings scored 21 points and dished out 13 assists. Ersan Ilyasova grabbed 11 rebounds. Tobias Harris scored 18 points.

The Celtics play the Wizards on Saturday. For once a quick turnaround may be welcome, if only to give them a sooner chance to erase the memory of this one.

Fourth quarter, 5:02, Bucks 89-72: Jennings and Sanders might have nixed whatever glimmer of hope Boston might have had. After Pierce missed a layup against two defenders, Jennings tossed a lob to Sanders for an oop dunk that restored a 17-point lead for the Bucks, who were on their way to opening their 2012-13 campaign with a "W."

Fourth quarter, 6:11, Bucks 85-70: Is a little more than six minutes enough time to make up 15 points? That was the major question as the Celtics' 2012 home opener reached its finale. A driving layup by Pierce made the deficit look manageable, considering the Bucks once led by 22 points, but that may have been too wide a margin to make up in the remaining time.

Fourth quarter, 8:47, Bucks 85-66: Rivers warned everybody about Harris before the game. The kid can play.

The second-year forward out of Tennessee had 15 points, triple his average from last season, on 7-for-9 shooting. He left Green in the dust and continued to expose Green's difficulty staying with his man around picks off the ball.

The lead inched back toward 20 points and this one was in danger of going in the books early.

End of third quarter, Bucks 76-58: With Pierce and Green leading the way, the Celtics finally showed some signs of life in the closing minutes of the third quarter. Regardless, it may have been too late.

Green swished a corner 3-pointer and then banked home a tough floater in traffic. Pierce pump-faked Ilyasova into a flyby and drilled a trey that pulled Boston within 16 points but that deficit was back to 18 points by the end of the quarter.

Going into the final period, every major player's minutes were under control. Pierce and Bass had played only 22 minutes each and Garnett had played a shade over 20 minutes. Rondo played more than 31 minutes in the first three quarters, but that guy can go forever, so nobody is worried about that.

If the Celtics decide to push for a comeback in the fourth, they are well-positioned minutes-wise to do so without burning out the big guys.

Oh yeah, and David Ortiz was shown on the video screen. He got cheered. Good times.

Third quarter, 3:44, Bucks 66-48: Jeff Green's second game was not going much better than his first. He had four points and one rebound in 17 minutes, and he heard a number of boos from the home crowd.

It took until more than halfway through the third quarter for Green to give Celtics fans something to cheer about. He recorded a chase-down block on the break and a few minutes later dribbled into trouble in the paint, only to come out with the ball and score a twisting layup.

The Celtics needed a spark from anywhere, and it would have been an opportune time for Green to emerge.

Third quarter, 5:40, Bucks 60-46: The second half opened up better for the Celtics than the first half, not that things could have gotten much worse. The Celtics hit five of their first eight looks, but they still shied away from the glass with only two rebounds in the first 6:20 of the third quarter.

Garnett and Bass showed some aggression offensively, but their six combined rebounds was part of the problem, too.

Halftime, Bucks lead 46-30: A smattering of well-deserved boos could be heard as the Celtics retreated to their locker room. Rivers said before the game that "it would be nice" to get off to a good start here at home. Whatever that was, it was the opposite of nice.

The Celtics shot 12-for-40 from the field and 0-for-6 from deep in the first half, with Paul Pierce almost completely MIA due to foul trouble. (Pierce was limited to less than 10 minutes in the first half, not that it would have mattered much. He missed all four shots he took and committed two turnovers in those 10 minutes.) Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger played reasonably well. Each put up six points, but Rivers could not put them on the floor together for too long for defensive reasons.

The Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings backcourt that everyone is skeptical can work looked just fine. They took almost half of the Bucks' total shots, as one would expect, but they delivered. Jennings had a game-high 15 points and Ellis hit two 3-pointers to give him eight points at halftime. Ersan Ilyasova had eight rebounds because he owns the Celtics in that category.

Second quarter, 3:07, Bucks 42-24: Define "ugly" with numbers. Start with 29 percent shooting, eight turnovers and eight personal fouls while getting crushed on the glass 26-19.

The Celtics were doing it.

Second quarter, 5:00, Bucks 34-22: In all seriousness, Ersan Ilyasova may want to consider signing with a team in the Atlantic Division one day. He would be guaranteed of four borderline dominant games on the glass every season.

Ilyasova averaged 18.5 points and 12.0 rebounds per game against the Celtics last season. He was off to an even stronger start on the boards in this one. With five minutes to go until halftime, the fifth-year pro from Turkey had seven rebounds. He averaged 8.8 boards overall last season and averages 6.0 rebounds per game for his career. Ilyasova and the Bucks led the rebounding battle 25-17.

Second quarter, 8:44, Bucks 29-20: Something was going on for the Celtics on the court, but not a lot of it was good.

The Celtics' shooting mark fell to 7-for-20 early in the second quarter as everyone in a white jersey struggled to generate a quality shot. Barbosa waved off everybody to try to isolate against Larry Sanders, and was rewarded for his trouble by getting blocked on a layup attempt. It takes some stones to wave off your teammates when you were signed in the last week of the preseason for the veteran's minimum, but apparently Barbosa has them.

End of first quarter, Bucks 25-18: Looking to inject some life into the offense, the Celtics rolled the dice with a highly unusual lineup to end the opening frame. Darko Milicic, Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Green and Sullinger took the floor together, creating a defensive liability at pretty much every position.

The trade-off Rivers apparently was going for was speed, but it did not make much of a difference. The Celtics trailed by three when Barbosa entered and their deficit grew to seven points. Boston shot 37 percent from the field in the first quarter and the most impressive Celtic may have been Sullinger, who had four points and three rebounds.

Ellis and Jennings ended the quarter 5-for-12 combined from the field.

First quarter, 2:53, Bucks 18-14: It has not taken very long for Jason Terry to ingratiate himself to Boston fans. The Jet received a hearty applause when he made his first appearance, and there was a murmur when he took his first shot attempt as a Celtic. Terry's midrange jumper hit the back rim, though, and Rondo missed Terry standing wide open in the corner the next time up the court.

The Ellis-Jennings shotwatch is at 10 field goal attempts combined. The Celtics have 15 field goal attempts as a team.

First quarter, 4:30, Bucks 16-12: Rivers and Rondo bemoaned their failure to get Garnett the ball more often in the season opener. In the early going of Friday's home opener, the Celtics' concerted effort to get The Big Ticket the basketball was obvious.

Garnett got numerous early touches and took three shot attempts before he was removed at his normal five-minute mark. He was nearly as aggressive as Jennings, who took five shots and is never shy about creating his own looks.

Oddly, Jared Sullinger got more applause when he entered the game than Jeff Green did. One of those guys overcame heart surgery, folks, and it ain't the rookie out of Ohio State.

6:50 p.m.: Doc Rivers saw Tobias Harris play often in high school, when the Islip, N.Y., native faced off against Rivers' son in AAU tournaments. The 6-foot-8 Harris was almost always one of the best post players on the court, which is why Rivers was at first taken aback last season to see Harris playing small forward, where he is expected to start on Friday.

"I thought him and [Blazers point guard Damian] Lillard were two of the better guys in the summer league," Rivers said about an hour before tip-off at the TD Garden. "He's another kid, because of my son, that I've gotten a chance to see playing against Austin in AAU ball for several years. He can play.

"It's funny, when I saw him in AAU he was always the bigger kid, so he played four and five. I cant tell you last year and this summer when I saw them putting him at the three, I never envisioned that. And he's good at it. He's a matchup problem for threes because of his size and his quickness."

5:20 p.m.: After Tuesday's shaky showing in Miami, the Celtics pleaded for patience as they try to adapt to the new players in the fold, like Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. One game is not enough to judge a team in an 82-game slog.

Two games is not enough, either, although this one will be harder to brush away if the Celtics put up another stinker. They will be performing in front of their home fans, for one thing, and the opponent is not the defending champs but the far less formidable Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks are still dangerous, but a win or a loss on Friday will only provide another subtle hint as the Boston's long-term success. Contrary to popular belief, a handful of games is not enough to write off the Celtics, Lakers or Thunder quite yet.

The projected starting lineups appear below.

Samuel Dalembert
Ersan Ilyasova
Tobias Harris
Monta Ellis
Brandon Jennings

Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Courtney Lee
Rajon Rondo 

8 a.m. ET: The Celtics will try to nab a few five-pointers
in addition to their usual two- and 3-pointers Friday when they host the Bucks.

Five-pointers? Bucks? Get it?

All unfunny jokes aside, the Celtics will play in front
of their home fans for the first time this season (preseason notwithstanding),
looking to even their record. The Bucks will be opening up their season as one
of the last teams to finally get on the court for real games.

Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will be players to watch
as the two high-octane guards begin their first full season together in
Milwaukee's backcourt. The Celtics' "small" lineups, which got a lot
of burn in Tuesday's season opener, might be utilized again on Friday.

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD
Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.

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