The Boston Celtics were lifeless, trailing the Milwaukee Bucks by as many as 25 points in the third quarter when a shift in momentum changed the entire outlook of the game.
And it all seemed to stem from a timeout called with eight minutes left in the frame. The NBC Sports Boston broadcast caught a passionate exchange between Marcus Smart and some of his teammates.
Following the timeout, Donte DiVincenzo hit two back-to-back 3-pointers in the Celtics’ face, and it looked like whatever was said during the stoppage didn’t get through to the team.
But Jayson Tatum had a big dunk a few possessions later, and Kemba Walker started going off to the tune of 17 points in the second half. Jaylen Brown hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers, ending the game exactly how he finished it, and Boston played engaged defense picking up the stops they needed.
It’s hard to believe Boston even had a chance to win it in the final seconds with how it played during stretches, but after Smart drew a charge on the Bucks’ last offensive possession, it seemed meant to be.
But the ball hit the back of the rim, and the Celtics fell 121-119.
“I thought that just the way we played, the physicality, the aggressiveness, all that stuff in the comeback was really good,” Brad Stevens said following the loss. “I thought we missed several opportunities that were pretty good looks to end either taking the lead or tie it. But credit them for that, they’re a hard team to score on in those moments.
“Clearly when you go back and see those plays at the end, (Brook) Lopez is playing off (Daniel) Theis and just protecting any cut to the rim. So, Theis was the best option there and got a great look and you know he stepped in and shot with good authority. Back rimmed it. Looked Good. I think if we would have played better earlier, maybe we’d be in better position but guys hung together and competed.”
Here are some other notes from Boston’s loss to Milwaukee:
— Given how bad the Celtics looked at times, it’s easy to watch them drop yet another game and rip them apart. The thing about Wednesday is that Boston did show a lot of fight to make the comeback it did — all while holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 13 points.
The rest of the roster got theirs, though. Seriously. The Bucks had an incredibly balanced scoring effort from the jump, and the Celtics had no business coming that close to the win with how they played.
Yet, they did. And they can hang their hat on that and see if the next time goes differently.
“I thought they just hit us in the mouth and kept punching, and we were lucky to be within what we were — even at halftime giving up 70 points,” Stevens said. “It didn’t look good there at the start of the half, but then the guys went to it. Really played well, possession to possession, and gave us a chance to win it.”