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Recap: Celtics 101, Bucks 89

The Bucks brought their modest two game road winning streak to Boston Friday night, but alas: the Celtics don't ball like the Thunder and Knicks.  The Bucks jumped out to an early 25-12 lead and kept it close for three quarters, but the Celtics finally turned it on in the fourth and pulled away for a 101-89 win at the newish Garden. It was befittingly all about balance for the Celtics, who got a perfectly-rounded 18 poinst, 10 boards and seven dimes from Paul Pierce, in addition to 16/9 from KG and 54 points from their bench.  Richard Jefferson again led the way for the Bucks, tallying 20 points (8/15 fg) and five boards as the Bucks' were again missing Michael Redd.

Three Bucks

  • Richard Jefferson. When the Bucks were racing out to their early lead, it was all about Jefferson.  He again had it going early, scoring 14 in the first quarter and just as importantly all that offense seemed to distract Paul Pierce, who had a quiet first half.  Unfortunately Pierce and the Celtics woke up in the second half while RJ couldn't sustain the Bucks' flagging effort. 
  • Luc. Another night, another solid effort.  Mbah a Moute chalked up nine points and nine boards in 23 minutes, and held his own when matched up with Pierce and Garnett.  To be honest I would have liked to see more of Luc against Pierce, but Skiles understandably preferred to give the nod to Jefferson most of the night.  His burn was also somewhat limited by Charlie Villanueva getting almost 35 minutes.
  • Joe Alexander. Normally this section is reserved for the Bucks' best performers, but on a night when few guys were at their best let's talk a little about the Bucks' lottery pick.  With the Celtics winning by double digits and Skiles probably looking ahead to tomorrow night's home contest against Phoenix, Alexander played the final 5:34 of the game and finally broke his NBA good egg by draining a three from the left wing.  A couple times Alexander made quick attacking moves that drew help defenders, allowing him to find an open man. 

Three Numbers

  • 11.  A big part of the Celtics' terrific defense is the way they defend inside, and 11 blocks--seven by Kendrick Perkins--show just how tough they can be.  Defensive Player of the year KG set the tone early by blocking Bogut's dunk attempt in the opening minute.
  • 28.  It wasn't quite the 37 assist night the Bucks had on Wednesday, but the Celtics' 28 dimes were more than enough tonight.  Especially in the second half, the Celtics were finding daylight on the perimeter and using the Bucks' collapsing defense to find open teammates inside.  As a basketball fan you have to appreciate it; as a Bucks fan not so much.
  • 0.  Alex mentioned in the preview that Ramon Sessions came into the game averaging 8.3 apg, but that number will fall to 6.3 following Sessions' 11 point, zero assist, five turnover outing against Rajon Rondo and Eddie House.  Though he had some nice aggressive moves into the lane, Sessions couldn't get teammates involved like in the previous three games, in large part due to that stifling Celtics defense.

Three Good

  • Starting Fast. A couple days after racing to a 15-point lead early against Washington, the Bucks seem to have developed the nice habit of starting fast, and that carried over to the world champs' house, too.  Riding Jefferson's hot hand, the Bucks surprised the Boston faithful by leading 25-12 mid-way through the first and 30-23 at the end of one.  That means the Bucks have now won the first quarter in four of their six games and trailed by just two in the other two games (Chicago, Toronto).
  • VNuv's Bottle of Windex.  I expected the Celtics to post Garnett more than usual given Villanueva's normally soft defense, but Villanueva managed to stay in the game if for no other reason than he brought energy to the glass.  He finished with 12 boards, with six of them on the offensive end. 
  • Garbage Time.  Wait, this is a good thing?  Well, when you're on the front end of a back-to-back, there's a slight silver lining to having your scrubs play the final six minutes--it affords the regulars a bit more rest.  Bogut had trouble with the C's interior defense (11 points, 4/11 fg) but only played 26 minutes anyway, so he should be reasonably fresh for Shaq and company tonight at the BC.  Jefferson played 33 minutes following his 49 minute effort on Wednesday.

Three Bad

  • Ball Movement.  The beauty of the Celtics' defense isn't that they have five lock-down defenders, but that they always seem to know when to double, when to hedge, and when to gamble in the passing lanes.  They're particularly good at clogging up the middle, which begins with Rondo's perimeter defense--by never losing his man, Rondo allows his big guys the ability to help more selectively, rather than having to try to erase hismistakes.  So after the Bucks racked up a delightful 37 dimes on Wednesday, the Celtics lived up to their reputation as the Bucks managed only 17 assists against 22 turnovers.  With Bogut struggling to find a rhythm, the Bucks could have really used Redd, as they seemed to run out of ideas offensively in the second half.
  • Garbage Time.  The good news is the Bucks got to rest some of their big guns for tonight's game against the Suns, but the bad news is of course that they had to throw in the towel in the first place.  While that happens to most opponents at the Garden, it was also the first time in six games that Skiles has gone to his scrubs in the fourth quarter. 
  • Double Dutch.  In the first half Skiles brought Francisco Elson off the bench to defend Garnett, an interesting matchup given the history between the two.  Shortly thereafter Dan Gadzuric joined Elson on the court, which I believe marked the first time the two Dutch big men were on the court together at the same time.  The Netherlands only got a brief glimpse of the Bucks' double Dutch lineup, however, as Gadzuric exited less than two minutes later.  Given Gadzuric's less-than-cerebral style, I've been somewhat surprised by Skiles' preference for him over Elson, but tonight we saw a decent reason why as Elson went 0/5 in 13 minutes.