Milwaukee (22-9): 120– Boston (18-13): 107
Jaylen Brown: 21 PTS 7 REB 2 AST 4 STL
Jayson Tatum: 20 PTS 5 REB 2 AST 2 STL 1 BLK
Kyrie Irving: 15 PTS 9 REB 7 AST
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 30 PTS 8 REB 5 AST 3 BLK
Khris Middleton: 21 PTS 9 REB 5 AST 1 STL
Eric Bledsoe: 16 PTS 9 REB 4 AST
Coming off of one of their most disappointing losses of the season, the Celtics had an opportunity against one of the powers in the East to get some momentum going as we approach Christmas. They even got off to a 10-1 run to start and from there all they did was disappoint, heavily. Right after their 10-1 run, the Bucks went on their own 17-0 run and from there the game was never really that close. The Bucks even led by as much as 26 at one point and it was just sad to watch. In the past, this felt like one of those games that the Celtics would fight their way back into. They didn’t come back and for the whole game I wondered where the urgency was and where the fight was. The only time I saw any semblance of it was when Jaylen Brown brought the hammer down on Giannis late in the game. I don’t even care that he got T’d up for it, because THEY NEED THAT. Someone on the roster finally showed that they cared and I for one think that’s important when this team looked absent all night long.
Two main figures to look at in this one, again, were field goal percentage and rebounds. The Celtics got pummeled on the glass for the second straight game as the Bucks led in that category 55-36. The Celtics elected to go small with a starting 5 of Irving, Smart, Tatum, Hayward, and Ojeleye and it really backfired on them in the rebounding department.
Another theme with this one was it was another night where the Celtics couldn’t shoot whatsoever. 38.5% from the floor 29.4% from deep, and 75% from the line. While the free throw numbers are fine, those shooting splits aren’t going to get it done against bad NBA teams (remember Wednesday against Phoenix) let alone one of the best teams in the league. Kyrie had a rough night (7-20), Tatum couldn’t buy a bucket (5-15), and Gordon looked like he forgot how to play basketball again (3-13). The only player on the Celtics who had a satisfactory game scoring wise was Jaylen Brown (yes, the same Jaylen Brown that everybody wants to run out of town).
For the Bucks, it was open season as their shooting splits looked a lot better at 51/40/78. For god sakes Tony Snell was 6-6 from the field and I thought he was Ray Allen reincarnated. Eric Bledose went 7-9 and everything went right for the Bucks. Every time the Celtics got even the slightest bit of momentum, the Bucks responded. Mike Budenholzer has done a fantastic job with this team and in comparison to just last season, it’s night and day. They took advantage of the lack of the size and even edged the Celtics in points in the paint (46-42).
Moving forward, the Celtics have a matchup with the Hornets and then a Christmas Day tilt against the new look Sixers. Things aren’t getting any easier, and after the game the players had a team only meeting. When Kyrie spoke after the game he basically preached sacrifice and playing for the team. It seems like they’re playing for themselves rather than playing as a team and it’s evident this isn’t the way to go. Just look at the ’08 team that took home the title. They sacrificed heavily and gelled almost immediately en route to banner 17. What is fascinating now, when looking back, is how hard it really is to come together like that so quickly. I’d argue the Celtics have more talent now on the roster than in ’08 but are performing far worse. It shows that no matter how much talent you have on your roster, you still need to play like a team and play the right way to be successful. The Celtics haven’t done that yet, and until they do, expect efforts like this to continue.
Player of the Game: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Not to take away from his performance, but it was a very standard Giannis game. He went to the basket at will, protected the rim, and even was able to dole out 5 assists. He’s just such a problem in the paint and he poses the ultimate mismatch. It doesn’t even matter who is on him, if he has the ball, it’s a mismatch. He had another strong performance against Boston and propelled the Bucks to their 22nd win of the season
Kemba comes to town as the Celtics take on the Hornets at home tonight 12/23 at 6:00 PM ET.
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