Don't let the final score fool you. The Milwaukee Bucks destroyed the Boston Celtics in their season opener on Friday night.
Milwaukee Bucks basketball is back with a vengeance. The Bucks stepped onto the floor and thoroughly outplayed the Boston Celtics for 45 of the game's 48 minutes, and they coasted to an impressive 99-88 road win.
An inauspicious start gave way to some truly inspiring moments. It looked like the same old thing for about 180 seconds. Monta Ellis started the season with a missed 11-foot jumper, Ersan Ilyasova pulled down an offensive rebound and Brandon Jennings missed a three-point attempt to cap the possession. Three minutes later Milwaukee was 2-for-10 from the field. Then Brandon Jennings turned up the intensity and gave the Bucks an early lead.
Jennings moved purposefully into the paint and carefully scanned the perimeter for assist opportunities all night long. He tracked down Celtics players and disrupted passing lanes on defense. He picked up eight of the team's first 12 points and three of their first five assists. He often looked like the best player on the court. He played like the Bucks still owed him some money. Maybe they do. Milwaukee's young point guard finished with a game-high 21 points, a game-high 13 assists, AND a game-high six steals.
Meanwhile, Monta got busy chucking. He parlayed an 0-for-3 start into a 2-for-6 first quarter even though his only attempt in the paint during that span came on a secondary break off a beautiful underhand feed from Jennings. The trend continued and Ellis ended the game with an uninspiring line: 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting, four assists and two turnovers.
It didn't matter much. The Bucks still put together a string where they hit 10-of-14 shots to bridge the first and second periods, and they jumped out to an impressive 27-18 lead.
Boston looked rattled by the quality of Milwaukee's interior defense. They aren't a team loaded with leapers or low-post players, but Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh turned the paint into a house of horrors for the Celtics at the outset of the second quarter -- Boston suffered through a scoring drought that lasted over six minutes during a stint with that wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man duo on the floor.
Suddenly the Bucks were up 42-24 on the road and the sellout crowd at the TD Garden in Boston fell silent. The Bucks didn't look surprised, though. They looked confident: "damn straight we're blowing you out of the water in your home opener" is the look Jennings had on his face. Then he hit a beautiful buzzer-beating floater to cap the half and carry that vibe into the intermission.
In the first 24 minutes, the Bucks held Boston to 12-of-40 shooting (30.0%) -- including just 7-of-17 success in the paint. Doc Rivers' squad held a fleeting 10-8 lead with 6:33 remaining in the first quarter; they never led again. I believe "boomshakalaka" is the proper NBA Jam parlance to sum up the first
Nervous boos emanated from the Celtics faithful early in the third quarter when Milwaukee's ball movement and off-ball action helped to push the lead to 55-35. Shortly after that point, Tobias Harris nailed his first three-point attempt of the season on a contested look from the right wing. He hit another three from the corner just to give everyone another reason to be excited. He finished with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and six rebounds. I like dem apples.
Let's distill the team's performance into a single sentence: The Bucks could do no wrong.
What a lazy performance from the #Celtics. No flow on offense. This is embarrassing for Boston fans.— Gethin Coolbaugh (@GethinCoolbaugh) November 3, 2012
More boos from TD Garden crowd. #Celtics casually strolling through this game, getting stomped.— Gethin Coolbaugh (@GethinCoolbaugh) November 3, 2012
Paul Pierce (11 points on 11 shots, four turnovers) looked old. He missed his first six shots and finally woke up late in the third quarter, but it was too late by then. In fact, the Celtics shot 56.3 percent from the field and hit 8-of-9 free throws in the third period, and they still lost the quarter to the Bucks by two points.
Rajon Rondo looked unwilling to raise his intensity to match Jennings. He failed to impact the game and rarely worked his way into the paint as he coasted to 14 points and 11 assists while his team finished 11-of-25 in the paint.
No Celtics player grabbed more than seven rebounds, so they got out-rebounded 46-36 as a team. No Celtics starter shot better than 50 percent from the field, so they wound up with 33-for-74 (44.6%) mark as a team. There is absolutely no doubt that the Bucks were the better team on Friday night.
Three Bucks GOLD STARS FOR EVERYONE
Three It's All Good
I'm not joking.
Three Bad Are you kidding me?
The Bucks are undefeated.
Bucks stats 99.7 OffRtg, 92.4 DefRtg, 26.8 OREB%, 85.4 DREB%. Sanders/Udoh lineups 75.5 DefRtg. Ellis/Jennings/Harris lineups net +13.5 rtg— Steven von Horn (@StevevonHorn) November 3, 2012