Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 100, Bucks 91
Celtics 100, Bucks 91
Trailing the Philadelphia 76ers by just one game for the Atlantic Division lead on Thursday, the Celtics entered Milwaukee with a golden opportunity in front of them. And playing on two days of rest, they weren't about to squander it.
Nearing the end of an otherwise grueling eight-game road trip, the Celtics improved to 4-3 on the voyage and 25-21 on the season by knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks, 100-91.
The C's came out shooting hot, nailing four of their first five 3-point attempts as they jumped out to a 35-29 first quarter lead. Paul Pierce looked good early, dropping 11 points in the stanza, and his work helped the Celtics shoot 58% from the field for the quarter.
Doc Rivers told reporters after the game that he loved Pierce's demeanor in the opening minutes of Thursday's game.
"Paul was aggressive. I don't think he liked the way we finished the game the other night,” Rivers said of his captain, who passed Clyde Drexler for 26th on the NBA's all-time leading scorer's list during the win.
While Pierce (25 points, 9 rebounds) was making his own history, the opening half of the game was nothing to write home about if you like defense; matadors on both sides played about as loose as you can. The pick-up game style seemed to take the C's out of their game in the second quarter, and it was suddenly 58-56 Bucks at the half.
Another scary sign? Brandon Bass rolled his ankle after landing on Drew Gooden's foot after nailing a jumper, and for a team that's been chronically shorthanded along the front line, another trip to the MASH unit could have spelled doom for the C's at the Bradley Center. Thankfully, Bass was able to walk it off and return to the lineup.
“It's sore a little bit, but you've got to fight through it,” Bass said after the game.
Thankfully, the C's managed to slow down the breakneck pace by deciding to make defensive switches on the pick-and-roll, something they almost never do. The adjustment helped them outscore the Bucks 18-13 in the third quarter. But the real key to this game was the start of the fourth. The Celtics opened the final quarter with a 16-4 run that put them in front by a comfortable margin. A Keyon Dooling jumper at the 5:53 mark in the fourth put the C's up 90-77, and the C's never looked back. After trading a few hoops, when KG hit a wide-open jumper with 1:33 to give the C's a 98-87 lead, the Bucks waived the white flag and tapped out.
Suddenly, the Celtics have new life, and they flew to Philadelphia knowing that first place in the Atlantic Division will be on the line Friday night.
Key Box Score Line
Greg Stiemsma grew up in Randolph, Wisconsin, and played his college ball at the University of Wisconsin. So it was fitting that one of his best performances as an NBA pro would happen at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Stiemsma, who played just over 24 minutes in Thursday's win, led the charge off the bench and came up with five blocks and four steals. And when he wasn't changing shots or intercepting passes, Stiemsma was contributing across the rest of the box score, grabbing four rebounds and handing out three assists.
Stiemsma, who's been battling a foot injury that won't allow him to practice, also added six of the Boston bench's 31 points.
Box Score Nuggets
- Paul Pierce passed Clyde Drexler on the NBA's scoring list on the strength of 10-15 shooting for 25 points.
- Greg Stiemsma blocked five shots, while Kevin Garnett rejected three of his own -- even if one of them probably should have been a goaltending violation.
- Ray Allen struggled, scoring just six points and going 1-8 from the field.
- Mickael Pietrus went 5-10 from the field and hit three shots from downtown while scoring 13 points to lead the Celtics' bench.
- The Celtics turned the ball over just 12 times Thursday night.
- Rajon Rondo notched 14 of the team's 30 assists.
- Six different Celtics notched steals, as the team tallied 13 total.
- The Celtics hit just seven free throws while attempting only 10 on the night.
- The Bucks were assessed just nine personal fouls.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on the road trip: "It’s been solid. It’s been a solid trip. It’s a good win definitely tonight, especially the way Milwaukee’s been playing as of late. This is a mentally strong group. We understand it’s been a long trip. This is a group that wants to get the next win to make it a great trip.”