The 18-2 Celtics welcomed Chairman Yi and his 9-12 Milwaukee Bucks into the Garden this evening. A touch of suspense was injected into the match-up by the pre-game announcement that Ray Allen would not suit up due to an ankle bruise, and would be replaced in the starting line-up by Tony Allen. Scott Pollard was also inactive for the game. Kendrick Perkins, on the other hand, was slated to play despite his recent bed-induced toe injury. Coming into tonight's game, the Celtics were 11-0 at home; one game away from tying the team's best home start ever. Would the Ray-less Celtics make history?
The Celtics played a solid yet unspectacular first quarter. The game started out with a couple of quick changes of possession and then a nice turnaround by Kevin Garnett, immediately followed by a Rondo steal on the return downcourt. The Celtics were strong throughout the quarter, despite a bit of sag in the middle, and did not seem to be unduly hindered by the substitution of one Allen for another. However, the team was clearly depending upon Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (Andrew Bogut was about as overmatched trying defend Garnett as anyone has been this season) who were responsible for 17 of 25 Boston points.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee struggled, racking up 7 turnovers and shooting only 44% in the quarter. The Bucks had three bad passes leading to loss of possession in the first five minutes, two into the stands and another back across the halfcourt line. Michael Redd was nowhere to be seen, going scoreless in the quarter. At the end of the quarter, the Celtics were up 25-21.Read More...
The Celtics second unit struggled to open the second quarter. James Posey was initially charged with bringing the ball up the court, as the Celtics seemed poised to isolate Rondo for drives to the hoop. This strategy was effective for a basket at the end of the first quarter and another to begin the Celtics scoring in the second. However, it was short-lived, as Rondo quickly picked up his second foul and Pierce replaced him in the game.
An Eddie House three at the 8:22 mark seemed to be a potential wake-up call; but it went unheeded, as the teams continued to trade baskets and miss shots. This was a slow-paced quarter marked by frequent turnovers. For the Bucks, Charlie Villaneuva made solid contributions on the boards (4) and totaled 7 points off the bench in the half.
As with many games over his career, we had the requisite Tony Allen Bipolar Minute. With about 3 minutes remaining in the quarter, Allen hit a three and then on the next possession pulled up for a twenty footer that only traveled 17 feet. He then stole the ball, making us all tremble as he dribbled up-court, but ended up making the final pass to Garnett for a dunk.
The whole half was, in a word: fine. Maybe in another word: mediocre. Evenly played, with nothing particularly notable happening on either side of the court. Overall, a workmanlike mid-season game. The Celtics went into the break leading 46-44 with the statistical line about as even as it could be: Bucks 49% from the field, Celtics 47%; Bucks 18 rebounds, Celtics 16; Bucks 6 steals, Celtics 5; Bucks 10 turnovers, Celtics 9; and both teams with 9 assists and 10 personal fouls each.
After some initial struggles at the outset of the quarter (including a rare basket by Redd in which he blew by Tony Allen as if he weren't there), the Celtics went on a 10-nothing run to wrest control of the game. Rondo attempted numerous shots, executed a cartwheel following a hard foul, and had 9 points in the quarter. He would finish the game with the 17 points that he accrued to this point, making him the number two scorer after Pierce. Most notably, Rondo made 5 of 5 free throws. Whether due to summer shooting drills, maturation, or play with the big three, our starting point guard is coming into his own.
The Celtics defense was as strong as their offense in the third, limiting the Bucks to 15 points and forcing a number of turnovers and repeated bad shots. For their part, the Bucks failed to keep the game at a pace they could handle. Their third quarter was typified by turnovers, personal fouls, and poor defensive coverage. Their ability to defend perimeter play, in particular, appeared completely non-existent. The Bucks leading man, Redd, will not be putting this game in his time capsule, as he finished the game with only 9 shot attempts and 7 points.
At the end of the third, Boston had grabbed a very comfortable lead: 78-59.
Garnett never got off the bench in the fourth quarter and the first five minutes were a Pierce aria: lots of Paul shooting, driving, and doing pretty much whatever he wanted while the lead hovered around 19. Rondo replaced Pierce with seven minutes remaining, and the rest of the quarter was pretty much garbage time as we were treated to such NBA legends as Royal Ivey, Awvee Storey, and the Center-Formerly-Known-As-Dan-Gadzuric.
The Celtics countered with Leon Powe and Gabe Pruitt to team with the more regularly seen Glen Davis, House, and Posey (who was then replaced by Scal with three minutes remaining). Pruitt watchers were treated to some nice signs: a breakaway lay-up after a steal followed by a very smooth looking jumper, and a three-pointer in the final minute. In all, 7 points in just a couple minutes of play. Pruitt's ballhandling was strong and he made some very nice feeds. The final score, a very comfortable 104-82.
Records are made to be equaled: the Celtics' franchise record 12-0 start at home has now been matched. Next Wednesday a more formidable foe, the Detroit Pistons, may bedevil this team as they seek to shatter the record once and for all.