Recap: Celtics 102 Bucks 97

The Bucks faced the defending champions without two regular starters, and a third was unjustifiably ejected in crunch crime. Missing three of Milwaukee's best, the Bucks nonetheless took the Celtics into overtime, where they came tantalizingly close before falling just short in a classic at the Bradley Center, 102-97.

Milwaukee used an exhilarating fourth quarter run to come back a 12-point deficit, capped by Luke Ridnour's pretty lay-in to force overtime. Andrew Bogut was ejected late in the fourth quarter after receiving his second technical, the last one because his hand inadvertently came down on Kevin Garnett's face, prompting KG to weakly punch Bogut in the forehead area. With Charlie Bell also ailing, the Bucks were without Bogut, Bell, Michael Redd, and Charlie Villanueva. Not surprisingly, they ran out of offensive firepower during bonus basketball, totaling just four points in the five minutes. Still, they had a chance to tie down by three, but a broken play resulted in Dan Gadzuric's missed two-point attempt, as each team made just one overtime field goal.

Three Bucks

  • Andrew Bogut. Bogut scored four of the team's first six points on a pair of pretty hooks to help give the Bucks a 6-0 lead. With nearly everyone else struggling to score against a suffocating defense, Bogut led an offensive charge that piqued in the fourth quarter. The only thing that could stop the Aussie were the officials, who sent him to the locker room after he absorbed a punch to the face by Kevin Garnett, who, by the way, Bogut outscored (20-15) and outrebounded (9-7) despite an early trip to the showers.
  • Luke Ridnour. For the second straight night, the pair of point guards make it here. We'll start with Ridnour, who took his late-game heroics turn a day after Sessions nailed a game-tying three to force overtime. This time, it was Ridnour who drove to the basket for a scooping layup to tie the game at 97 and force overtime. Ridnour was absolutely excellent from the field (5-7), outside (3-4), and the line (6-7).
  • Ramon Sessions. The point guard's assist numbers aren't remarkably high this year, but he continues to show the amazing court vision that produced gaudy assist totals last Spring. He also is limiting mistakes quite wonderfully for a young point guard; he has just five turnovers in his last five games and has converted 24-30 (.800) free throws in that span. He couldn't find his shot (5-17) against an active Boston defense, but Sessions made plenty of positive contributions anyway. Last season there was much talk about whether Rajon Rondo (0-1, 2 points, 6 assists) could start at point guard on a champion. He proved doubters wrong. Does anyone doubt the Bucks' backup couldn't do the same, given the right pieces around him?

Three Numbers

  • 34. Milwaukee scored 34 glorious points in the fourth quarter to come back from a 12-point deficit and force overtime. They hit 11 free throws in that period and were aggressive throughout. The Celtics are the top defensive team out there, and the Bucks ran roughshod over them in the fourth despite being without Redd, Villanueva, Bell, and then Bogut following his ejection. That works.
  • 9. The Celtics racked up nine blocked shots compared to the Bucks' four. Richard Jefferson's emphatic rejection of Kendrick Perkins in the fourth quarter was nice, but Garnett's scintillating stuff of Sessions in overtime may have been the best of the bunch. Garnett led the way with four blocks and Perkins added three. Nine also stands for the number of field goals Pierce attempted, an impressively low number considering he netted 28 points.
  • 38. The Bucks made 30-38 free throw attempts. The Celtics did a little better, hitting 32-36, but Milwaukee was very aggressive against a very good defense. The free throws helped the Bucks hang around despite shooting just 31-85 (.365) from the field.

Three Good

  • Bradley's Centers. Facing the league's stoutest defense, Bogut delivered a season-high 20 points. His assertiveness helped push big men like Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Leon Powe, and Garnett into foul trouble, and the latter into emotional problems. Bogut was fouled on the play of the confrontation with Garnett and his ejection, leaving the Celtics to pick any player to shoot the free throws. They chose Dan Gadzuric, who calmly sunk both important free throws to draw the Bucks within three at 83-86. Gadzuric played well the rest of the way, even winning the overtime tip against Garnett, and slamming home a dunk to give the Bucks a 97-96 lead. In all, the centers did a fabulous job against Boston's usually smoldering and smutthering interior defense.
  • Bucks' pluck. This is very different than luck. Luck is having good fortune purely by chance. Pluck refers to resourcefulness and courage, making one's own good fortune in a sense. And pluck is what these Bucks possess, a trait that makes them inherently watchable, even in losses like tonight. He might be a Prince, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute plays with the rugged determination of a commoner. Suffering an 0-4 start from the field, he swished a jumper and then sprinted to steal the ensuing inbounds pass. Falling out of bounds, he delivered the pass to Sessions, who drew a foul and got to the free throw line, a place where the point guard spends a fair amount of time. Mbah a Moute made another huge steal and falling-out-of-bounds save during the team's fourth quarter run. The tight game proved the Bucks aren't only plucky either; these guys can play against anyone, champions included.
  • The youth is here. The Bucks figured to have serious depth problems coming into this season, yet here they were tonight, without Redd, Villanueva, Bell, and Bogut down the stretch, forcing the Celtics into overtime. Youngsters Sessions, Mbah a Moute, and Alexander are coming along quite nicely, to say the least.

Three Bad

  • In the 30's. While I'm not talking about the near-freezing temperatures outside the Bradley Center at gametime, I am referring to something cold: The Bucks' first half offense. For the third consecutive game, the offense couldn't crack 40 first-half points. Against the Spurs they scored 37, then 31 against Grizzlies, and finally 38 versus the Celtics. Improbably, the Bucks won the first two and almost pulled another victory tonight. We know Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva don't usually bring a lot of defense, but their offensive dynamism and outside shooting ability was missed, especially in the waning moments of overtime when, down by three, the Bucks attempted an... awkward two-point floating-type shot by Gadzuric? I mean, I know Gadz made the team's only field in overtime, but still. That leads us to...
  • Three, it's a magic number. The Bucks staged another captivating double-digit second half comeback, but unlike against the Wizards, Spurs, and Grizzlies, didn't quite pull out a win. Not to get greedy, considering they incredibally pushed the champs into overtime playing shorthanded, but... The Bucks could have forced double-overtime with a three-pointer, but chose instead to feed Gadzuric for a ten-footer with just a few second left. That was an unfitting, anticlimactic finish to dramatic game. Also, four points in overtime isn't likely to get the job done.
  • Boston T Party. This isn't a Bucks' bad. Bogut undeservedly picked up his second technical after unintentionally making contact with KG's face, and the Celtics were a bit chippy all night. Doc Rivers picked up the first technical and Perkins, Powe, and KG added a few more to the Celtics' NBA-leading 19 technicals coming into the game. Garnett, who fouled out in overtime, should have been kicked out after umm, bopping Bogut in the face.
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