The Boston Celtics’ first contest of the year against the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t look quite as anticipated on Friday night. Struggling with injuries and COVID protocols, the Bucks visited the TD Garden without three of their four best players, as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were all unable to suit up.
Despite all the absences, though, there was no easy business for the Celtics tonight. The Bucks gave them everything they could handle, forcing Boston’s fourth overtime game of the young season. The Celtics — namely, Dennis Schröder — made the plays that counted most, however, and walked away with the 122-113 victory.
Schröder led the way with a monster performance, scoring a season-best 38 points and making a sequence of massive plays late in overtime. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart were solid in support, combining for 46 points of their own. The Bucks contributed a chippy collective effort, with their five starters all scoring in double digits, but they connected on just 16 of their whopping 47 attempts from behind the arc.
In their win over Toronto last Wednesday, the Celtics exploited an undersized Raptors lineup to the tune of 12 offensive rebounds (eight from Williams alone). Against a short-handed Bucks’ frontcourt lacking both Antetokounmpo and Lopez, that trend continued early against Milwaukee. The Bucks were able to field only one player above 6-foot-6 on the evening (Bobby Portis) and the advantage that created was rapidly evident. The Celtics matched their OREB mark from the Toronto game in just the first half.
Also cooking early was Schröder, who got off to a quick start with 14 first quarter points. But as the game progressed into the second quarter, he became Patient Zero for Boston’s first half ailment: turnovers. Schröder committed three of the Celtics’ 10 first half turnovers, which served to completely negate their advantage on the glass and allowed Holiday and the chippy young Bucks’ reserves to enter the halftime break with a 55-51 advantage.
Whatever adjustments were made during the break did not solve the turnover issues as play resumed. The Celtics tacked on three more turnovers in the early going of the third quarter as they struggled to put the shorthanded Bucks at arms’ length. Luckily, the third quarter also featured one of Smart’s best offensive stretches of the season, as he scored 12 points (largely off the dribble) to refocus Boston’s offensive effort. He closed the quarter with a beautiful, no-look dish to Horford for a layup, and the Celtics entered the final frame with an 88-81 advantage.
Marcus Smart with the ridiculous pass to Al Horford pic.twitter.com/S09cFiYfwB— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) November 13, 2021
The Bucks gave a valiant effort without the majority of their best players on the court, but in the fourth quarter, their continued struggles from range heavily handcuffed them. Still, despite how they struggled to connect from range, they continued to hang around in this game. With just over 1:30 remaining in regulation, old friend Semi Ojeleye hit a floater to put Milwaukee within four points, 104-100.
Coming out of the ensuing Boston timeout, the teams traded buckets before a George Hill layup cut the lead down to one. Moments later, after a Schröder layup, Grayson Allen shook Smart for a step-back three-pointer to tie the game up at 108 with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation. A mid-range attempt from Tatum couldn’t find the bottom of the net, and the Celtics once again headed into overtime.
The early minutes of overtime amounted to a draw, as the teams traded quick twos to keep the game even until a missed free throw left Milwaukee behind by a point, 112-111. From there, Schröder took over. He connected on a three-pointer with just over two minutes to play, and then followed it up with a sweet left-handed layup on the next possession to put the Celtics ahead by five with 1:30 remaining. Robert Williams swatted an Allen layup and Schröder converted a pair of free throws on the other end to finally put the game away for good.
Next up, the Celtics will hit the road once again for the first of two consecutive games in Cleveland against the Cavaliers, Saturday, November 13 at 8 PM EST on NBA TV.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics overtime win over the Bucks, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full postgame breakdown.