The Bucks started their season with a bang, overrunning the Celtics early and cruising to a 99-88 win behind Brandon Jennings' 21 points, 13 assists and six steals.
Well that was...unexpected.
After an up-and-down preseason, the Bucks did what they had to do to beat the undersized, aging Celtics: limit second chance opportunities, force turnovers, run when they could and move the ball in halfcourt. The end result was a surprisingly non-competitive home opener for the Celtics, who theoretically should have been plenty focused on righting the ship after their 120-107 loss in Miami earlier this week.
Both teams were in preseason form in the opening minutes, but Milwaukee began to find its rhythm behind Brandon Jennings (21 points on 17 shots, career-high-tying 13 assists, 6 steals, 2 turnovers) and the kind of balanced effort that will need to become a regularity if Scott Skiles' team wants to be a factor come playoff time. There were no shortage of positives to draw from the night, among them Jennings (forcing turnovers, pushing the ball in transition and getting into the lane in halfcourt) and Tobias Harris. The 20-year-old was named the starting small forward earlier in the day and showed off his full offensive arsenal (18 pts, 8/11 fg, 2/2 threes, 6 rebs) in outplaying a subdued-looking Paul Pierce (3/11 fg, 11 pts, 4 to). Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett had their moments in pick-and-pop, but the Celtics never found a consistent offensive rhythm and fed the Bucks' transition game with their sloppy ball-handling and inability to grab offensive rebounds.
Larry Sanders also kept up his impressive preseason form in a reserve role (10 pts, 5/7 fg, 7 rebs, 2 blocks), cleaning up around the hoop and combining with the Bucks' other bigs to wall off repeated paint attempts by the Celtics. Monta Ellis was less effective overall (6/20 fg, 14 pts, 4 ast, 2 to), though his shooting numbers weren't done any favors as the guy who was frequently left to jack up jumpers at the end of the shot clock. Combine it with his propensity to jack up jumpers early in the shot clock, and that's what you get. Jennings also had more than a couple questionable shots, but his off-balance scoops and jumpers more often than not found paydirt