Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
The Boston Celtics pulled away from the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night with a with a 14-6 run to start the second half. That spurt opened up a 15-point advantage and Boston cruised to an easy 124-109 victory from that point on. However, that run didn’t stand as the most important juncture of the game.
This game was instead won with a momentum-shifting end to the first half, one that was fueled by Marcus Smart.
It’s no secret that Smart has been struggling with his shot over the past month. Brad Stevens, however, has been his strongest supporter while saying over and over that Smart impacts the game in many other ways than scoring.
Friday night was a perfect example of what Stevens has been talking about. Smart changed this game with his energy, his defense his passing.
The sophomore guard made a handful of plays during the final seven minutes of the second quarter that put all of the momentum in Boston’s corner. Three of the plays culminated with assists, including two alley-oops and one full-court heave that helped Jared Sullinger beat the first-half buzzer.
Smart’s first alley-oop went to Tyler Zeller, just seconds after Smart ripped a steal in the open court from Rashad Vaughn. After poking the ball away, Smart patiently probed the defense in transition before finding Zeller for the easy lay-in.
The next oop got the Garden crowd on its feet. Kelly Olynyk broke up a pass at Boston’s defensive end of the court and Evan Turner then began a fast break for the C’s. He wound up tossing an outlet pass to Smart near midcourt and along the left sideline, and Smart wasted no time in passing the ball off to his streaking teammate, Olynyk. The guard tossed a touch pass to the big man for a thunderous alley-oop that put the C’s ahead 46-41.
Smart’s final dish of the half might have been his most impressive one. He resembled Tom Brady while tossing one the length of the court to Sullinger.
Following a free throw by Milwaukee’s Tyler Ennis, Smart tended to his right eye, which received four stitches Wednesday night. That move seemingly lulled the Bucks asleep, and Smart took advantage. He stepped out of bounds and quickly hoisted a full-court pass to Sullinger, who boxed out Greg Monroe and put home a left-handed layup to beat the buzzer.
Sullinger’s basket only put Boston ahead by seven points at the break, but it felt like the lead was at least double that amount. That’s how much momentum Smart’s plays gave the Celtics, and that’s how much energy his plays pumped into the crowd.
It felt like the C’s couldn’t lose this game after that stretch, and sure enough, they didn’t. Friday night was just another example of Smart making a major impact without scoring the rock.
If you had your money on Tyler Zeller ending Isaiah Thomas’ Celtics franchise-record leading scorer streak, you’re swimming in cash.
Zeller came out of nowhere to lead the C’s in scoring and tie his career high Friday night with 26 points. He was kind of efficient. And by ‘kind of,’ we mean ‘ridiculously.’
The 7-footer drilled nine of his 15 shots on the night, marking the most makes and attempts by any Celtics player. He also set game highs in the free throw department, where he led the game with eight makes and nine attempts.
Rebounding wasn’t Zeller’s strength Friday night, but that’s OK. He more than made up for that with his scoring.
Oh, and with his defense, too.
Zeller doubled the block total of any other Celtic by swatting four shots on the night. That number tied his career high and trailed Milwaukee’s team total by only one.
Not a bad night for the big man, huh? One that was certainly unexpected coming in.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston shot 56.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from long distance.
- No player in the game grabbed more than eight rebounds.
- Milwaukee had the game's leading scorer (Giannis Antetokounmpo, 28 points), leading rebounds (Greg Monroe, eight boards) and leading assist man (Tyler Ennis, 11 assists), yet lost by 15.
- Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, ending his franchise record of 17 straight games as the team's leading scorer.
- Tyler Zeller tied his career highs with team highs of 26 points and four blocks.
- Boston made 10 more free throws (30) than Milwaukee, and one more than Milwaukee attempted (29).
- The Celtics scored at least 30 points during each of the first three quarters.
- Boston scored a whopping 70 points in the paint.
- Kelly Olynyk scored 16 points and did not miss a shot (5-for-5 from the field, 1-for-1 from long distance).
- The C's led by as many as 27 points.
- Miles Plumlee grabbed a game-high three steals.
- None of Boston's starters played more than 25 minutes and eight seconds.
Quote of the Night
I didn’t even know that. I think he’ll be happy, I think he just really wants to win. That’s what we love about him.
Tyler Zeller on breaking Isaiah Thomas' scoring streak.