Keys to the Game: Celtics 111, Bucks 100
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee’s biggest in-season acquisition in recent memory, had a chance to be the man Monday night in Boston. Instead, he swung and missed on the two biggest possessions of the night.
Boston led by as many as 20 points in the game but Milwaukee battled back to make it a contest during the fourth quarter. The Bucks crawled back to within eight points on multiple occasions, and they had two opportunities to cut that deficit down to five or six during the final four minutes.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench, Bledsoe was the man who had the ball on both possessions, and Bledsoe was the man who fell flat on both possessions.
On the first possession, the 6-foot-1 point guard misfired on a wide-open 3 from the top of the key with 3:14 remaining in the game. A make would’ve sliced Boston’s lead down to five and put even more of the momentum into Milwaukee’s back pocket for crunch time. Instead, Bledsoe misfired and fell to the floor as he attempted to draw a foul.
Marcus Smart missed an ill-advised driving hook shot just seconds later, giving the Bucks another shot to make it a two-possession game, but Bledsoe again shot his team in its collective foot.
Bledsoe ripped down the rebound off of Smart’s miss and took it in the other direction for the Bucks. Milwaukee didn’t have numbers in transition, but with 2:58 left on the game clock and as he passed midcourt, Bledsoe felt the need to push the ball toward the basket. Boston was in great defensive position to defend the drive and that showed in the results.
Bledsoe drove on Jaylen Brown, and Kyrie Irving pulled in from the right corner to help Brown out. DeAndre Liggins flanked to the right corner as Bledsoe drove the ball, but Bledsoe thought Liggins was going to crash toward the basket along the baseline. That miscommunication led to Bledsoe passing the ball to the fans in the front row, rather than to Liggins, with 2:55 left in the game.
That was pretty much the end of the game right there.
The Celtics called for a timeout and took advantage of the stoppage in play. Brad Stevens drew up a possession that led to a driving finger roll by Brown on the next possession, a bucket that pushed Boston’s lead back up to 10 with 2:38 remaining on the clock.
The lead never dropped to fewer than seven from that point on, as Boston held on for a 111-100 victory. No one knows what would have happened had Bledsoe connected on that critical 3-point attempt, or had he not turned the ball over on his attempted pass to Liggins, but one would have to assume that this game would have gone down to the wire, with Milwaukee potentially grabbing a win.
Instead, Boston polished off a comfortable win thanks to Bledsoe falling flat on the two biggest possessions of the night.
What an incredibly efficient night Al Horford had on Monday. He neared a triple-double on 80 percent shooting from the field, all while committing only two turnovers. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that Boston outscored Milwaukee by 21 points while he was on the floor, which was far and away the game’s top plus/minus rating.
Not bad, eh?
Horford scored 20 points on the night and made eight of his 10 shots from the field, one of his two 3-pointers, and three of his four free throws. We’ll do the math for you; that’s 80 percent from the field, 50 percent from long range, and 75 percent from the line. That. Is. Good.
Horford finished second on the team in scoring, behind only Kyrie Irving’s 32 points, but he did lead the team in both rebounds and assists. He hauled in nine boards to lead Boston and tie with Giannis Antetokounmpo for the game’s top total. In the assist category, Horford tallied eight notches, which led the game outright.
“Twenty points on 10 shots, eight assists and nine rebounds… pretty good night,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “And, oh, by the way, you have to try to keep Giannis in front of you.”
Horford didn’t necessarily succeed at a high level at that last part, as Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 40 points, but who cares? He put together an outstanding performance during 34-plus minutes of action that propelled Boston into the winner’s circle yet again.
Box Score Nuggets
- Giannis Antetokounmpo led the game with 40 points on 14-for-24 shooting.
- Kyrie Irving wasn't far behind him with his 32 points on 13-for-24 shooting.
- Antetokounmpo made 12 free throes and attempted 14, marking game highs in both categories.
- Al Horford led the game with eight assists and tied for the lead in rebounds with nine.
- Boston's largest lead was 20 points, while Milwaukee's was only one.
- The Celtics outscored the Bucks 60-34 in the paint.
- Boston outscored Milwaukee by 15 points while Terry Rozier was on the floor. Rozier finished with seven points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal.
- Both teams shot at least 42.9 percent from long range (45.5 percent by Boston, 42.9 percent by Milwaukee).
- Malcolm Brogdon led all reserves with 10 points.
- Jayson Tatum scored 17 points, 14 of which were logged during the first quarter, on 5-of-6 shooting and 4=for-5 shooting from long distance.
- The Bucks committed only 10 turnovers.
- Boston outrebounded Milwaukee 45-28.
- The C's shot better than 50 percent from the field for the fifth straight game after not doing so a single time during its first 20 games of the season.
Quote of the Night
When he came in for his (pre-Draft) workout, he made A LOT of shots, and it looked effortless, and that's usually a pretty good sign.
Brad Stevens on NBA 3-point percentage leader Jayson Tatum.