11/10 Game Preview: Celtics at Bucks
It took the Milwaukee Bucks a little more than three months to win five straight games in 2014-15.
Thanks to some improved defensive play, the Bucks can match that run - a 2014-15 season high - much earlier Tuesday night against the visiting Boston Celtics.
After allowing an average of 115.3 points in the first three games, Boston (4-3) has yielded 90.3 in the last four. The Bucks' last three opponents have shot 41.4 percent, including 21.3 from 3-point range, after the first four connected on 46.7 percent and 43.2 from beyond the arc.
Though two victories came over Brooklyn and another against Philadelphia, offensively challenged teams that entered the week without a win, that progress provides optimism. That's especially true given that Jabari Parker is contributing gradually after missing the first four games while recovering from knee surgery, point guard Michael Carter-Williams might sit out a fourth consecutive contest with a sore ankle and veteran O.J. Mayo yet to play because of a strained hamstring.
Milwaukee didn't win five in a row last season until Jan. 27-Feb. 4.
"There's a lot of new pieces, including myself," center Greg Monroe said. "We just had to work out some things.
"I definitely think everybody's on the same page now. Everybody understands what they have to do on both sides of the floor. I think that's why the tide has kind of changed."
After averaging 14.3 points in his first five seasons with Detroit, Monroe is scoring 18.1 and pulling down a team-leading 8.7 boards per game. He scored 20 while Jerryd Bayless added 19 and 10 assists in Saturday's 94-86 win over the Nets.
"It's big," the ex-Celtic Bayless said. "Everybody is contributing. Everybody is coming in, playing hard ... That's the most encouraging thing about it. We'll see what can happen." Monroe's averaged 20.5 points in four home games, and 22.8 in his last four overall against the Celtics (2-3).
Boston, which dropped its only road game by two against Indiana on Wednesday, snapped a three-game skid with Friday's 118-98 victory over Washington.
Jared Sullinger scored 21 and Kelly Olynyk had 19 with seven rebounds, four assists and four steals as the Celtics shot 61 percent in the first half and led by as many as 30. Boston also scored 24 points off the same number of Wizards turnovers.
The Celtics lead the NBA in forcing turnovers at 20.8 per contest.
"We were running up and down the floor," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We got some stops and we got out and ran. I think that's when we're at our best."
Forward Jae Crowder, who had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five steals against the Nets, should be able to play after he bruised his knee in that contest. The Celtics also hope guard Marcus Smart can go after he sat out the last two games with a toe injury. "We prefer to have our whole team available," coach Brad Stevens said. "At the same time, we've got good depth in those spots and guys that are very reliable."
Sullinger has averaged 15.5 points as Boston has split its last four at Milwaukee.