In Milwaukee tonight, we saw a matchup between two teams who had already clinched their playoff seeds. The Celtics beat the Bucks 105-100 to finish their season on a positive note, and carry some momentum and rhythm into their first playoff game.
It was Gigi night tonight, as Datome led the Celtics with 22 points. Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, and Jared Sullinger also scored in double figures. Ersan Ilyasova, Khris Middleton, and OJ Mayo led the Bucks with 21, 18, and 16 points, respectively. That Milwaukee trio was incredibly efficient as well, shooting a combined 23-of-37 from the floor (62.1%).
The Celtics had reason to rest some of their more important players (Crowder, Thomas, and Bradley never saw the floor) to make sure they are well-rested for the playoffs. As such, we saw healthy doses of James Young, Gerald Wallace, and Phil Pressey. The Celtics used this extra game to their advantage, both in terms of developing bench players and reacquainting their recently absent cogs with significant floor time.
From the opening tip, the C's did not display the effort that they normally do - they came out as though they were playing an exhibition match. Turnovers by Luigi Datome and Evan Turner set the tone early, as the Bucks jumped out to an early lead. Frustration was evident by Boston in the first quarter, as they were pushed around a bit more than they would have liked.
Unfortunately, physicality wasn't the Celtic's problem; they were not running their offensive sets with any kind of regularity or intensity, and generally settled for an unfortunate combination of turnovers and poor shots. On the other side, Khris Middleton played with otherworldly efficiency; he didn't miss a shot in the quarter, and led Milwaukee with 13 points. Out of a timeout towards the end of the first, Boston finally seemed to find its offensive motivation, as it came back to make the score 22 to 25 at the end of the first frame, in favor of the Bucks.
That momentum would continue with the rest of the half, as Phil Pressey sparked a stretch of solid offensive play (with some great 3-point shooting) that gave the C's a 3-point lead. The bench really played well in this game, moving the ball well and knocking down their shots. Boston would take a 4-point lead into the locker room at halftime, despite notchin 10 turnovers.
Marcus Smart played well in the first half, balancing strong defense with versatile offensive contributions. Pressey was undoubtedly the star of the first 24 minutes for the C's, though, running the offense well, and taking a team-leading +12 plus/minus into the locker room at the midpoint. In addition to Middleton's stellar play, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis did their part to keep the Bucks in the game, going a combined 6-for-8 in the first half, for 12 points, 3 steals, and a couple of rebounds between them.
Technical fouls for each team (Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner) couldn't put a damper on a 3rd quarter that saw solid scoring from Jonas Jerebko and fan-favorite Gigi Datome. The intensity of the game stayed high, and even continued to rise. Both teams are too spirited, and too well-coached to allow a game to be played as lackadaisically as this one was in the first 8 minutes or so.
Ersan Ilyasova had himself one heck of a night. He scored 9 points in a row for the Bucks during the 3rd, and finished the night with 21 points.
In the fourth, the Celtics started to pull away a bit. A balanced scoring effort and solid team defense brought Boston to a 7-point lead. As the game ticked away, Gigi and OJ Mayo engaged in a very entertaining offensive battle. With 2 minutes left, Datome hit a deep three to put the C's up by 6, and the Bucks never recovered, losing their final game of the year.
- Luigi Datome's Offensive Production: The cappuccino-loving marksman showed why he was MVP of his Italian league; he really filled it up tonight.
- Jared Sullinger's Defense: I didn't think I'd be typing that one. Sully had 3 blocks, a steal, and some solid on-ball defensive plays that made a positive impact on the game, making up for his poor shooting night.
- Phil Pressey's Energy: The young point guard showed once again that he can energize a lineup, regardless of the game situation. A solid performance, tonight.
- Our 3-Point Shooting: 43.3% shooting from long range will keep us in a lot of games. Shooting like that certainly bodes well for our upcoming matchup against the Cavs.
- Energy to Start the Game: We had a terrible start to the game, and won't get away with such poor openings against Lebron and company.
- Turnovers: 10 turnovers in a half is way too many. We were lucky that our defense was able to force enough turnovers on their end to clean up that mess.
- Missed Dunks: There were many, by many players. Perhaps Marcus Smart used up all the highlight-reel-juice that we had stored up in last night's game against the Raptors.