As the hospital Celtics injury count racked up entering Friday night’s game, the Celtics limped to the bench with a bevy of rotation players absent with Al Horford, starting PF Marcus Morris Sr. and big man Aron Baynes all out. Going up against one the longest starting fives in the east, the Celtics started out really small with Jayson Tatum the tallest Celtic on the court. Brad Stevens went back to Gordon Hayward in the starting 5 and Semi Ojeleye attempted to replace the heft and might Aron Baynes in the middle.
Boston started out 10-1 to open the game as they threw multiple bodies at Giannis and managed to collect quite a few charges as Semi and Gordon Hayward clogged the paint and put their bodies on the line. The Bucks came roaring back into the game spearheaded by Khris Middleton as the Bucks went on their own 16 point run to lead 17-10. Milwaukee came into the game 1st in the league in offensive rating at 113.2 and after some blistering shooting from Tony Snell and Thon Maker, they poured in 35 points to end the 1st.
The start of the second quarter saw more of the same as Milwaukee was getting wherever they wanted on the offensive end and Thon Maker kept nailing corner threes to stretch the lead. Boston had a mini rally late in the quarter but the Bucks ended up with a 17 point half time lead reeling off 65 points.
As the third quarter started Milwaukee kept pace behind Giannis who started to impose his will scoring all 14 of the Bucks opening quarter points. In a solid stretch of play, he had big dunk, a pair of FTs and deep three pointer followed by a myriad of nice outstretched lay-ins around the basket.
Gordon Hayward finally hit a three in the third and the crowd and the C’s began to rally behind a few neat defensive plays by Smart, Brown and Irving leading to a few fast break opportunities to keep pace with Milwaukee. However, Giannis feasted on the Celtics interior and the small ball lineup and the Celtics left the Bucks shooters wide open, with Middleton and Snell hitting timely threes to keep the Celtics at bay 93-78 heading into the final stanza.
Moving into the fourth the crowd finally awoke after this play:
Jaylen pic.twitter.com/viA6TZrWuQ— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 22, 2018
The after-the-play flex was harshly deemed a taunting technical however, as the Celtics began to rally behind the play of Jaylen Brown who has been visibly off his game recently. Brown hit a pair of threes and Gordon Hayward had a neat lay-up as the TD Garden came alive with 7 minutes to go.
A string of poor offensive possessions for Boston vs. the patience of the Bucks saw them hold off any chance of a Celtics late recovery to close out the game. Boston move to 18-13 on the season as the Celtics and Bucks split the season series. The C’s now have one day off before they face Charlotte at home on Sunday.