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Bucks 106, Celtics 95: Bucks drop Celtic scrubs, get ready for Atlanta this weekend

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Box Score

The game itself?  Not the most serious of affairs.  With four out of five starters resting, the Celtics made it clear at tip-off that they weren't too concerned with generating any momentum for the playoffs, though considering the age of the Big Three that's fairly understandable. Instead, Doc Rivers rolled out a Rondo-and-a-bunch-of-random-dudes lineup that most certainly will never see the court when things get restarted this weekend.  So much for fan appreciation night.  Anyway, Rondo was terrific--seems to be a recurring theme against the Bucks--but the random dudes?  They lived up to their randomness.  

The Bucks on the other hand did have something to play for, knowing that a win coupled with a Miami loss (sans Wade, O'Neal and Haslem) against the Nets would bump them back into the fifth spot in the East. And while the box score suggests the Bucks were going easy on their starters, that had more to do with the bench outplaying them than Scott Skiles wanting to give the regulars a break.  Ridnour couldn't miss, Stack was feeling vintage again, Ilyasova was rainbowing jumpers.  Heck, even Dan Gadzuric was stuffing the stat sheet in the second half against a pretty tragic frontline that prominently featured Shelden Williams and Brian Scalabrine.  

But while the Bucks did their part, the Nets perhaps predictably found a way to lose against the Heat's D-League crew, denying Milwaukee a chance to renew acquaintances with the real Celtics in the first round.  That locks the Bucks into the sixth seed, about eight spots higher than most experts predicted in October.   

Next stop: Atlanta.  

Three Bucks

Luke Ridnour: 27 min, 17 pts, 6/6 fg, 3/3 threes, 2/2 ft, 8 ast, 2 reb, 1 to
Ridnour finished 2010 showing off exactly why 2010 was such a memorable season for him.  After Jennings promisingly ripped a couple jumpers to start the game, the rookie had a couple defensive lapses and yielded to Ridnour, who along with Ilyasova and Stackhouse got the Bucks back on track.  Pretty standard stuff: give him a hint of daylight and a chance to set his feet, and Ridnour will make you pay.  He didn't fare any better trying to stop Rondo, but on a night like this it didn't really matter.  

Jerry Stackhouse: 28 min, 17 pts, 7/11 fg, 3/5 threes, 0/2 ft, 5 reb, 4 ast
Stack looked pretty out of gas a couple weeks back, but apparently even old dudes can get their second wind. He's almost no threat to score off the drive, but for whatever reason he's still effective operating out of the post--maybe defenders will realize at some point he's just going to shoot over them every time?  Stack's now cracked double-digits in four of five and is basically the only other guy aside from Salmons who seems to gets isos, which is kind of hilarious in an "our offense is so screwed" kind of way.

Dan Gadzuric: 26 min, 14 pts, 7/12 fg, 0/1, 9 reb, 2 stl
There was a time when Gadz was liable to drop a 14/9 line every couple weeks.  Now is not that time.  But let's focus on the positive: Gadz surpassed his previous season highs of eight points and eight rebounds by doing what Gadz does: running around, jumping up and down, and throwing the ball in the direction of the rim enough to rack up 14 points.  There may have been an airballed, step-back 20-footer from the left corner mixed in there somewhere.  

Three Numbers

69-36.  A monster night from the bench, which shot 56% (28/50) en route to a +33 edge on the Celtics subs.  Of course, it should be noted that most of the Celtics bench was moonlighting as the Celtics starting lineup, and the C's even signed a guy named Oliver Lafayette off the street (OK, the D-League) this afternoon, seemingly with the sole intention of losing this game.   

In fact, it turns out the Yahoo box score was missing Lafayette entirely--they didn't have time to add him to their NBA database apparently--hence the C's point total only add up to 88.  

.506. The Bucks' offense these days is, uh, interesting.  Aside from the occasional John Salmons drive, they basically just chuck jumpers with little pretense of scoring around the cup.  That's translated into plenty of bricks since Bogut went down, but the pseudo-Celtics they faced tonight allowed plenty of open shots and the Bucks moved the ball well (25 ast), didn't make many mistakes (7 to) and, yes, made shots (51%).   

28. The Bucks set out to win the game but still managed to keep everyone under 28 minutes on the night.  Hooray, depth!   The Bucks also scored 28 points in the paint, tying their post-Bogut high.  And yes, that's still terrible.

Three Good

Bench.  The Bucks' second unit had the benefit of facing the worst the Celtics had to offer, and they did what they're supposed to do.  It's also what we've seen from them for much of the season--nothing spectacular, but they play consistently, make more shots than you'd expect from a group that considers Stackhouse their go-to guy, and defend with enough intensity that it's tough to go on big runs against them.

Playing Big(ger).  The Hawks crushed the Bucks on the glass (48-34) and in the block column (11-1) on Monday, so it could be a long series from a physicality standpoint.  Hmm.  At least tonight the Bucks kept it respectable, outrebounding the C's 41-34--the first time they've won that column since the Nets win five games ago. 

Finishing.  Whatever happens in the next couple weeks, you have to admit this is a pretty loveable team. Surpassing all expectations, they broke the usual Buck pattern of good starts and miserable finishes to rack up the most wins Milwaukee has seen since the crew that went to the Eastern Conference Finals.  46 wins!  Pretty crazy.  

Two Bad

PG post problems.  Jennings' complete lack of strength makes him an easy target in the post, yet we haven't seen many teams try to take advantage of it--off the top of my head, Billups and Stuckey were two of the only guys who seemed to actively try to bully the little guy down low.  Rondo made it look easy on a couple occasions, as Jennings looked completely out of sorts unless he got a hard double to help.  Here's a hint, Brandon: if your guy catches the ball five feet from the hoop with his back to you, consider putting a forearm or maybe a hand into his backside.  At least let him know you're there.  I don't expect Bibby to get many post touches in the playoffs, but the Hawks do have the ability to go big with Crawford at the point.

Bulls in. It's not like we needed much motivation to root against the Bulls, but the whole pick-swapping thing made it even more of an issue. Alas, the Chris Bosh injury and subsequent Raps collapse came just in time: the Bulls won tonight against an unmotivated Bobs squad in Charlotte, locking up the 8th seed.  That means the Bucks will have to settle for the 15th pick in the first round.