Greg Monroe was removed from the starting lineup before Tuesday night's game in Milwaukee, and he certainly did everything he could to show he was displeased with the demotion, putting up 29 points and 12 rebounds in Milwaukee's 112-111 victory.
The Celtics had a one-point half time lead, but got outscored by 20 points in the third quarter thanks to sloppy play on the offensive end and a lack of intensity on the defensive end. They brought that intensity and took care of the ball in the fourth quarter, storming back to tie the game with one second remaining on two Kelly Olynyk free throws. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late as Avery Bradley reached in and fouled Khris Middleton with 0.6 seconds left on the clock, sending him to the line for the game-winning free throw.
The Bucks new starting lineup didn't give the Celtics any problems at the beginning of the game, as the Celtics built up an early 10-point lead. Milwaukee fought back though with a strong close to the quarter and cut the Celtics lead to four at 30-26. The Celtics brought Jonas Jerebko in at the 4 early in the second quarter, and the ball immediately started zipping around the floor and the offense was flowing. However, that small lineup also forced Kelly Olynyk to guard Monroe. Monroe had a slow start, but abused Olynyk in the post in the second quarter to the point where the Celtics had to bring Jared Sullinger back in the game. Sullinger didn't fare much better, but the Celts still managed to hold a one point lead at the half at 54-53. Amir Johnson was a +16 in the first half, but only played 12 minutes due to foul trouble. All the Celtics starters were a +5 or better in the first half, while three members of the bench were in double digits on the negative side.
The Celtics got a quick start to the 3rd quarter with a Jae Crowder triple, but the Bucks soon built a lead behind Jabari Parker and Middleton. Monroe continued his assault on the Celtics, dominating down low. The Celtics started doubling, but then Monroe consistently made the right play, finding cutting teammates or open shooters. The Celtics brought in Tyler Zeller, but no one on the Celtics had an answer for Monroe on this night. The Celtics didn't do themselves any favors with sloppy play leading to several turnovers and the Bucks pushed the lead all the way to 19 at the end of three at 93-74. Monroe had 27 points at the end of the third in only 22 minutes at that point.
The Celtics started to show some life midway through the fourth quarter, with the Bradley Turner Crowder Jerebko Olynyk fivesome providing a spark. The Celtics started exploiting the Bucks poor defensive rebounding and finally started playing with a sense of urgency, continuing to chip into the lead. An Isaiah Thomas and-1 brought the Celtics to within four with under three minutes to play. Monroe then missed two free throws, and after another Isaiah Thomas layup, the Celtics found themselves with the ball down three with 28 seconds remaining. Coach Stevens dialed up a great play to get Crowder a good look from three, and Crowder drilled it. The Bucks went to the guy who was their bread and butter all night, and Monroe knocked down a hook shot with one second to go. It was up to Stevens and his whiteboard once again. He drew up another nice play, and though the pass from Marcus Smart was not a good one, Kelly Olynyk was fouled going up for the ball. Olynyk calmly stepped up to the line and knocked down two free throws to tie the game. Then the Bucks had a chance for the win with one second left, and on the inbound pass to Middleton, Bradley gambled and lost, sending Middleton to the line for the game-winning free throw.
The Bucks came into the game losers of five straight, and the Celtics winners of nine of ten. The Bucks needed this one badly, and the Celtics were due for a dud, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. The Celtics have been playing great lately, but they still don't have enough talent to win by just showing up, and the Bucks proved that tonight.
-Jae Crowder still looks hobbled on his injured ankle. He still plays so hard and is still playing well, but he will definitely enjoy the time off during the All-Star Break.
-CSN posted a graphic showing records in the NBA since Super Bowl XLIX on February 2, 2015. The Celtics have the 6th best record in the league in that time behind only the Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers, Thunder and Clippers. Not bad company.
-Jabari Parker looks great. Reports haven't been great out of Milwaukee and his stats so far this year aren't overly impressive, but he looked very active and athletic on this night.
-Kelly Olynyk came out aggressive in his second half stint, showing off his rendition of the Dirk one-legged fadeaway. If he can get that move down, he will be very tough to guard.
-Michael Carter Williams' size gave Isaiah Thomas problems on the offensive end, as Isaiah only had 8 points midway through the 4th. Isaiah did manage two huge buckets down the stretch though to help bring the Celtics back.
-Though the Celtics didn't play their best tonight, you can't help but love the heart this team shows on a nightly basis.