This time it's okay to call it a comeback. After their late rally fell just short against the Knicks on Wednesday, the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks repeated their mistake from Game 1 and once again allowed their opponent to build a big first half lead. However, this time the bench unit led by Zaza Pachulia (20 points, nine rebounds, four assists), Nate Wolters (14 points, six assists, one turnover), Khris Middleton (13 points, excellent defense) and John Henson (14 points, nine rebounds) was able make a big push and finish the job down the stretch.
After the starters managed to suck the fun out of watching professional basketball and put the team behind by 22 points in the third quarter, the young bench unit made a surge. All told, it was a 22-point comeback that punctuated the Bucks' first win of the season. Boston's absurd 62.8 percent shooting in the first half, including 21/29 in the paint, took a dramatic dive in the final two periods, and Larry Drew let his young reserves flip the script after halftime.
The Celtics were held to 21.1 percent shooting (7/33) in the second half, and they only hit on four of their 19 shots in the final stanza. Meanwhile, the Bucks made a huge 34-15 run in the fourth quarter, all while four-fifths of the starting lineup stayed glued to the bench. Pachulia anchored himself on the low block, Henson set up Wolters in the high pick-and-roll, and the young second-round point guard found the perfect balance between distributing to his bigs and finding open shooters like Khris Middleton on the wings. Caron Butler was the only starter to play even a second of basketball in the final period, and he contributed with a timely three-point prayer and a heads up deflection that led to a clinching pair of free throws Nate Wolters.
The stats for the top-two lineups (in terms of minutes) from the Game 2 win, via NBA.com's media stat site, say it all:
|Butler.Caron - Ilyasova.Ersan - Mayo.O.J. - Neal.Gary - Sanders.Larry||13||42.1||111.7||-69.6||0.67||15.80%||41.70%||25.80%||15.90%||21.00%||86.84|
|Antetokounmpo.Giannis - Henson.John - Middleton.Khris - Pachulia.Zaza - Wolters.Nate||12||148.3||100.6||47.6||6||25.00%||46.20%||38.10%||67.50%||71.20%||95.07|
If you had told me before the season that the Bucks would play two terrible halves of basketball and two terrific halves, the course of events in the first two contests probably represents the best sequence for those highs and lows. After all, it's never fun to see your favorite team lose a big lead, even if you have an eye on the 2014 NBA Draft. Here's the relevant portion of the recap from SB Nation's CelticsBlog:
The Celtics' ragtag group of misfits looked in the mirror and saw another ragtag group of misfits, and you knew it wouldn't be pretty. You could kind of guess from the jump that in the end, neither one of these teams would be winning tonight's game, but one of them would lose it.
But to lose it like this?
The Celtics absolutely imploded in the fourth quarter, carrying a double-digit lead until the final nine minutes and then hurling it down the drain. In a game that they'd previously led by scores of 16-4 and 80-60, they collapsed into a heap of ugly forced jump shots, blown defensive assignments and a general lack of awareness on both ends of the floor. All the solid fundamental play that had put them in such a commanding position early, abandoned them late.
"I really don't even understand it," a flabbergasted Wallace said postgame. "I'm trying figure out what's more important, winning or padding your stats. This was a game that were supposed to win easily, without the starters even playing in the fourth quarter. Instead we got selfish as a team - we didn't move the ball, we let the ball stick, we stopped pushing the ball. Then their second unit came in and manhandled us and did whatever they wanted to do."
Those Celtics tears taste sooooooo good. Right, Zaza?
Actually, game number seven isn't until November 13th, so a respectable 1-1 record will have to do for now.
Frank and I did a podcast recap of the win against Boston, and here it is:
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