Boston (6-2): 117- Milwaukee (7-1): 113
Kyrie Irving: 28 PTS 3 REB 7 AST 2 BLK
Gordon Hayward: 18 PTS 4 REB 5 AST
Al Horford: 18 PTS 5 REB 8 AST
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 33 PTS 11 REB 2 AST 3 STL
Khris Middleton: 16 PTS 5 AST 4 REB 2 STL
Malcolm Brogdon: 16 PTS 6 REB 2 AST
Milwaukee came into the TD Garden Thursday night looking to not only improve upon their all-time best start (tied with the 71-72 team) but in tandem get some revenge on their 1st round foe from last season’s playoffs who disposed of them in a hard-fought 7-game series. The Celtics on the other hand were looking to keep up their hot play and continually integrate all of their pieces into the offense.
Right from the tip Gordon Hayward looked like his old self. He first buried a 3-pointer right off the catch, then proceeded to get a block, and then go in for a nice
drive from the right-wing. His explosiveness is coming back and he’s miles ahead from where he was only a couple of weeks ago which is a pleasant sight. Another interesting wrinkle was the addition of Semi Ojeleye into the starting five as Jaylen Brown is nursing a foot injury. Dubbed the “Giannis Stopper”, Semi did what he does best and that was move his feet and make his opposition’s night hell. He also gave the Celtics a lift burying a couple of threes in the game and a couple of dunks (big dunks to be exact). The first quarter was more of a rock fight with the final tally at 23-16 in favor of the green. A positive was the Bucks 31% mark from the field in the quarter as the Celtics did an exceptional job at forcing them outside and keeping them away from the basket.
Things took a bit of a turn in the 2nd as Giannis had the realization that he’s the best player on the court and he can do whatever he wants in the paint. Long story short, that happened, as he mutilated the Celtic’s bigs inside and kept the Bucks alive while not much more was going on for them on offense. 17th overall selection Donte DiVincenzo looked solid as he was able to give the Bucks some much-needed offense off a bench that features mainly non-scorers. As the quarter wound down Kyrie put in a couple of threes and the Celtics saw themselves up 55-53 at the break
Bombs. That all you need to know about the second half as the Celtics came out firing starting the 3rd with four straight 3s (3 courtesy of Kyrie and 1 for Tatum). It finally feels like Kyrie is breaking out of this shooting slump that’s plagued him a bit to start the season (Fro/Headband Kyrie gone but not forgotten). This is bad news for opposing defenses as the obnoxious three-point daggers and mind-boggling drives are back. He even finished the frame with 11 3rd quarter points. With that being said, the play of Marcus Morris tonight cannot be grazed over. He was fantastic. Potting 11 second half points and providing the edge and hustle this team needs off of that Bench With Attitude. Specifically, late in the 3rd off of his own missed layup he got up, sprinted all the way back on defense, and ended up with a steal that ignited some passion and fire into the building. The Celtics closed the quarter with a 93-78 lead and it looked as if they’d close it out.
SURPRISE…They gave up the lead (*everybody faints at this absolutely loony news*).
Yup, the Bucks came out on fire racing out to a 12-0 run to start the frame. From then on it was a back and forth bout that included some ridiculous Kyrie fadeaways, Giannis galloping through the lane, and Eric Bledsoe ultimately being the goat (not to be mistaken with GOAT). The teams traded blows and just when we all thought the Celtics would pull away now up 111-101 with 4:24 left,(see a trend here?) they almost gave up the whole lead as it got as close to 113-111 with a little under two minutes left in the game. This effort, spearheaded by Khris Middleton, who hit two contested threes and a Kyrie-esque righty layup (high glass, off the wrong foot) brought the Bucks back. Boston continually tried to give the game away as they even missed 3 threes on the same possession leading to Milwaukee having a chance to tie with 54 seconds left. Middleton tried backing Kyrie down on the
baseline and in such a beautiful display of defense Kyrie: first, stood his ground, then poked the ball out, and then continued to stand his ground until Middleton turned it over. From then on the Celtic’s offense was still silent as the fingernail biting proceeded far too longer than preferred. Off of a rebound with 26 seconds remaining down 2 Bledsoe shoveled it up to Giannis who then attempted to back down Al Horford and tie the game. Horford played this perfectly as he pulled the chair out from underneath and the Greek Freak tried to put in a layup off balance and missed it. Milwaukee had a foul to give so the Celtics had to simply get the ball in, get fouled, make their free throws, and go home happy. Off the inbound Tatum got doubled by Giannis and Bledsoe and turned it over on top of committing a horrible foul while the Bucks were in the bonus down 2. The man at the line was the much maligned Bledsoe who HEARD IT from the fans. He clanked the first free throw and the crowd bellowed in laughter and this stretched to the Celtic’s bench as Terry Rozier mocked his rival of sorts by mimicking his shot and laughing. From then on the Celtics did what they were supposed to do and squeaked out a win.
- Horford’s defense is going to sneakily win this team a ton of games as he was excellent down the stretch containing Giannis and switching with precision
- While it is very standard procedure for this team over the years the blown leads cannot continue if they plan on playing in June
- The Celtic’s broke a franchise-record for threes made in a game by hitting 24 and were one away from tying the league record (25)
- Kyrie and Gordon are really starting to look like themselves and I see this continuing as they get more and more comfortable in their roles
- Marcus Morris, Marcus Morris, MARCUS MORRIS, that is all
Player of the Game: Marcus Morris
Morris was a shot of life into this team when they needed it most 17 points on 6-11 from the field and 5-8 from three off the bench in 24 minutes of work. Remember when everyone kept saying he was the odd man out and he might not fit on this team with everyone at full strength? What a wild statement that seems like now as he’s been consistently one of their most reliable players and continues to bring a passion and fire to the court that is invaluable off the bench. Brad Stevens preached about how he appreciates Morris and the place he has on this team and we can see why.
Back at it Saturday at 7:00 pm ET on the road vs Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers