BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are back in a rut.
After their win streak was snapped at eight last Saturday, the C’s now have dropped three in a row with Friday’s 120-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden.
First-half struggles doomed the Celtics, who simply couldn’t get their offense going through the first two quarters. Boston showed some guts in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was his usual self with a game-high 30 points, while Khris Middleton shined with 21. Five Celtics players scored in double figures, with Jaylen Brown (21 points) and Jayson Tatum (20 points) leading the way.
With the loss, the Celtics drop to 18-13, while the Bucks improve to 22-9.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Gordon Hayward
C: Semi Ojeleye
BUCKS BUILD LEAD
The Celtics came out with a ton of energy, opening the game on a 7-1 run while drawing three offensive fouls less than three minutes into the contest. But it was pretty much all Bucks the rest of the way in the first quarter, which concluded with the visitors holding a 35-22 lead.
Milwaukee was efficient from the field in the opening frame, connecting at a 63.2 percent clip. That was in large due to Tony Snell, who led all scorers after one with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Middleton wasn’t far behind with nine, but the C’s did do a respectable job defending Antetokounmpo, who only notched five first-quarter points. Boston was paced by Irving’s seven points, while Tatum and Ojeleye both provided five.
The C’s had trouble finding the basket in the opening minutes of the second quarter, which allowed the Bucks to extend their lead to 26. But thanks to a 16-7 run to end the frame, Boston trimmed the deficit to 65-48 at the break.
Interior dominance helped Milwaukee keep control of the first half, owning a whopping 31-13 rebound advantage through two quarters. Middleton posted another fine quarter with eight points, while Eric Bledsoe chipped in seven after being held scoreless in the first. The C’s were aided with a bench boost, as Brown notched seven second-quarter points to go along with Daniel Theis’ five.
The Celtics showed quite a bit of fight in the third quarter, but their rally was subdued by Antetokounmpo. After being limited to just 11 first-half points, the Greek Freak erupted for 17 points in the third to help Milwaukee take a 93-78 lead into the final frame.
Tatum carried the offensive load for the home team with 12 points in the third, but no other Celtic logged more than four points in the quarter. Boston did a fine job defending outside of Antetokounmpo, as no other Bucks player besides the star forward logged a point until George Hill knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:37 left in the quarter.
MILWAUKEE WEATHERS STORM
The Celtics took the momentum to start the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to just 11 with a Hayward layup at the 7:39 mark, forcing the Bucks to call a timeout. The regrouping evidently was all Milwaukee needed, as it put its foot back on the gas en route to a tough road win.
Brown’s high energy and 10 fourth-quarter points helped the Celtics keep things somewhat interesting, but the Green never truly threatened at notching a comeback victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME
How do you stop this? Short answer: you don’t.
The Celtics return to action Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 6 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports