Pierce scored 35 points, coming within five of reaching 40 for the second straight game, to lead the Celtics (13-13). Lee posted 11 points and solid defense on the Bucks’ lightning-bug backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who combined for 39 points for Milwaukee (14-11).
Green had to be helped off the court after taking a shot from Ersan Ilyasova’s elbow on a rebound attempt. Head trainer Ed Lacerte had to assist Green, who took several minutes to get up and was holding a towel to the left side of his face as he walked to the locker room.
Overtime, :18.5, Bucks 95-94: Ugly. The refs were not popular when they sent Ellis to the line, until Ellis helped out by missing the second free throw. But as Green and Ilyasova went up for the rebound, Ilyasova wrapped his arm around Green’s left shoulder and wrestled him to the ground. Green appeared to hurt his neck or head and is still down on the ground.
Bucks got the ball, by the way. Jennings is headed to the line after the intentional foul by Pierce.
Overtime, :36.1, game tied 94-94: Oh, there you are, KG.
On a night when the Celtics could not do anything offensively, it looked like they freed up Pierce on a flex cut for a 12-foot jumper. Then Garnett, who was 5-for-21 shooting, finally hit a jumper to knot the score.
Overtime, 1:16, Bucks 94-90: There are not many advantages to having two shoot-first guards, but one of them is that the longer the game goes on, the easier it is for one to stay relatively fresh. Ellis bounced his way to a slick layup and a baseline jumper to give the Bucks the edge, while Pierce, for all his heroics, is starting to look gassed. His last jumper looked flat-flooted.
End of regulation, game tied 88-88: The Bucks got mixed up, and Sanders and Ellis were unable to execute a hand-off on the inbounds. Sanders ended up airballing an 18-footer as the clock expired.
This means Pierce, who finishes the first 48 minutes with 33 points, has another five minutes to work his magic.
Fourth quarter, :02.5, game tied 88-88: Paul Anthony Pierce.
The Celtics were dead. Completely dead. Then the Bucks inbounded, Jennings threw the ball to Rondo, who threw the ball to Terry, who missed, of course. But Green tipped the rebound to Pierce, who hit the tying shot. Of course.
Paul Pierce, folks.
Fourth quarter, :18.2, Bucks 88-85: Zoinks, don’t go away yet. Pierce found Green for a lob on an out-of-bounds play, and suddenly the Celtics were back within one possession after an unsightly final minute. They opted to trap, rather than foul, and the Bucks were forced to take a timeout.
Fourth quarter, 1:46, Bucks 83-81: Sometimes you just have to sit back and watch Pierce and say, “Wow.”
The captain has put the Celtics on his back. He drained a jumper, then answered an impossible floater by Jennings with a 3-pointer out of an ugly offensive series. He came up with the steal, and although Garnett was not able to convert on the other end, it is clear the ball should go through Pierce from here on.
Fourth quarter, 4:52, Bucks 79-76: This is a game the Celtics could really use Avery Bradley. There are too many defensive breakdowns for a high-energy team like the Bucks not to capitalize. Terry has had trouble keeping up with any of the Bucks’ backcourt or wing players, and Rondo is gambling far too much. He made an unforgivable reach for a pass, unsuccessfully, on a defensive possession in which Boston really needed a stop. Jennings missed the wide-open three, but Rondo’s chance was a poor one.
Fourth quarter, 8:32, Celtics 72-71: The Celtics may not want to leave Mike Dunleavy.
The Bucks’ sixth man has been relatively quiet, but he started to be heard early in the fourth. After a jumper to get himself rolling, Dunleavy drained a three to cut Milwaukee’s deficit to just three points.
Lee picked off a pass and converted the layup to give Boston a little breathing room, but layups by Mbah a Moute and Sanders nullified that in a hurry.
End of third quarter, Celtics lead 70-62: If the Celtics pull this one out, Pierce will have a lot to do with it. Pierce is putting together his second straight strong game offensively, with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, but Lee has played a huge role as well.
Lee has nine points, and all seven of his shots have been good looks. He has also defended effectively, and it has been glaringly obvious whenever Terry takes his place on the defensive end. Green, with 10 points, is the only other Celtic in double-digits, and he has joined with Lee and Sullinger to lead an effective second unit.
Third quarter, 2:59, Celtics 64-60: Bucks coach Scott Skiles really leaves nothing to chance. His team began the quarter down three, trailed by at least four several times in the third quarter, and pulled even with the Celtics three times.
Still, a 4-0 run on a quiet mid-range jumper by Green and a fast break dunk by Bass was enough to prompt a timeout by the Milwaukee bench. You should never take a chance at a road win for granted, but yeesh.
Third quarter, 6:04, Celtics 56-54: The Bucks have intermittently looked like a team playing its third game in four nights, which they are. Fortunately for them, so are the Celtics.
Both teams have decent shooting percentages in the 40s, but it does not feel like they are hitting that many shots. A lot of that has to do with free throws on Milwaukee’s side. The Bucks have taken 20 free throws but have hit only 11, which is as many foul shots as the Celtics have taken all together. Yet the Celtics have missed just nine of their foul shots, helping them cling to an ever-dwindling lead.
Halftime, Celtics lead 46-43: This goes for every game, but against the Bucks, it always seems to come down to sustained energy for the Celtics. Milwaukee’s depth and youth gives the Bucks so many waves of athletic, speedy players to throw at the Celtics that no lead is safe.
Despite leading by 10 points multiple times, the Celtics lead by just three points at the break. The Bucks closed the first half on a 10-3 run led by Mbah a Moute, who scored five straight Bucks points in one stretch. Lee, who drilled a trey from the left corner, was the only Celtic to break up the drought.
Give Pierce a break from the criticism, though. Pierce hit seven of his 10 shots to lead all scorers with 17 points at the half, helping to make up for Garnett’s cold 2-for-10 first half. Mbah a Moute and Ellis, both 4-for-8 from the field, tied for the Bucks lead with 11 points each.
Second quarter, 3:06, Celtics 43-33: My condolences, Bucks fans. Is this what you have to watch every game?
Milwaukee is all over the place, as the Bucks have been in all four meetings with the Celtics this season. Their roller-coaster ride brought them within three points after two free throws by Ellis. Then three straight turnovers translated to a Pierce finger roll, a Terry 3-pointer (his first make in eight tries) and a fast break dunk by Brandon Bass on the 3-on-0 break. Whew.
Second quarter, 5:54, Celtics 36-30: Lee, Sullinger and Green gave the Celtics some quality minutes. It turns out it was tough for the starters to keep it up.
Once Terry, Pierce and Collins re-entered the game, Monta Ellis started doing Monta Ellis-y things. He dropped a jumper and then plopped in a floater over Collins’ fingertips. The starters may be more gifted offensively, but the reserves seemed to do a better job on the defensive end during their time on the court.
Second quarter, 8:49, Celtics 32-24: Rivers opted to stick with what works. He started Sullinger, Lee and Green to begin the second quarter, and the results were mostly neutral. Ekpe Udoh got active to score three quick points, but Sullinger and Lee responded with putbacks to protect Boston’s eight-point lead.
End of first quarter, Celtics lead 25-17: For a quarter that began and ended with the Celtics unable to hit anything, the first 12 minutes were not unkind to the C’s. After missing their first six shots, they hit 10 of their next 15 and used a spark from their small-ball group to take a 10-point lead (which Milwaukee whittled down over the final two minutes).
Pierce was off to another strong start. Mathematically he was on pace for 49 points, which would surpass his 40-point performance against the Cavs, but it is too early to start thinking about that stuff. But I mentioned it anyway. So there.
First quarter, 2:40, Celtics 20-11: Going small has not yielded consistent, positive results for the Celtics this season, but in its first two minutes on the floor. a small-ball lineup led the charge for Boston.
Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Pierce and Rondo turned a one-point Celtics lead into a nine-point advantage with defensive pressure leading to up-tempo offense. Green had a two-handed dunk out of a high pick-and-roll and Lee finished a fast break with an athletic double-pump layup past the outstretched arms of Daniels.
Sullinger has been doing some subtle, helpful things. He cleared the lane on a sort-of-legal screen/box out for Pierce to drive through for a layup.
First quarter, 5:47, Bucks 10-8: If the Celtics celebrated Christmas early, they must have gotten bricks in their stockings. They missed their first six shots and are 3-for-11 through the first six minutes.
Pierce is not as hot as he was Wednesday, but he was nowhere near as cold as Garnett. The forward-turned-center-turned forward missed four of his first five shots before going to the bench for his normally scheduled rest. Terry clanged all three shots he took.
Sanders caused problems not just defensively but offensively as well. His athleticism and length gave him six of the Bucks’ first 10 points.
6:45 p.m.: Larry Sanders has given every team trouble as the league’s leading shot-blocker, but he left the Celtics feeling especially rejected the last time he played them. In the Bucks’ win on Dec. 1 in Milwaukee, Sanders swatted five Celtics shots to give him eight blocks in three games against Boston.
“We should probably stop shooting when he’s right there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “That would probably help, because he only blocks your shot. He does it to everybody. I honestly told my son Austin when he played the Bucks, ‘Be careful with Sanders. If you get a step deep, he’ll get you.’ I think his first two shots were blocked, so I was thinking, ‘Nothing changes.’ No one listens.”
Sanders might find it hard to get blocks on his own man, as Rivers once again will start defensive-minded center Jason Collins. Terry will join Collins with the starters for the second straight game.
The projected starters appear below.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics have just about had enough of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The pesky Bucks and their lightning-fast backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have caused all sorts of problems for the Celtics this season. The Bucks (13-11) have won two of three meetings already against the C’s (13-12), and they had a run of five wins in six games before they fell to the Grizzlies on Wednesday.
After slow starts — due to a shortage of playing time or plain old poor play — Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders have turned it on of late, which could be bad news for Boston. Ilyasova has given the Celtics trouble with his energy on defense and on the glass, and Sanders is the league’s leading shot-blocker at just over three rejections per game.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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