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Bucks vs. Celtics Final Score: Brogdon Comes up Clutch and Seals Win for Milwaukee, 103-100

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The rookie’s huge plays late have Milwaukee practically tasting playoffs

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie of the Year anyone? Malcolm Brogdon made his signature case tonight, running the Celtics’ ragged down the stretch before throwing in the dagger with just three seconds remaining to seal a 103-100 Bucks’ win. Channeling the same quiet swagger he’s exuded all year, Brogdon either scored or assisted on Milwaukee’s final ten points.

Of course, this was also an immense win for Milwaukee’s playoff hopes. Back-to-back wins on the road kept them even with Atlanta in the playoff standings. The Bucks were confidently ahead for much of the second and third quarters before going back-and-forth throughout the fourth. While Isaiah Thomas’ fourth quarter reputation still kept the Celtics in it, Brogdon’s key plays down the stretch helped Milwaukee hand Boston just its 10th loss in the Garden this year.

Malcolm Brogdon ended the game with 16 points, four rebounds and nine assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo had another quiet night, but still wound up with 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Crikey. Khris Middleton broke out of his slump too, hitting 8-14 en route to 19 points, six rebounds and five assists while Greg Monroe did his thing down low, ending with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas paced Boston with 32 points, with Jae Crowder as the next closest Celtic at 13 points. Avery Bradley finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Marcus Smart pestered his way to 11 points, 11 boards and five assists.

Milwaukee ended the night at 52.6% shooting, while Boston closed at merely 39.8%, as a Bucks’ opponent again shot poorly from deep. Boston was just 12-37 (32.4%) from behind the arc. Despite that, Boston stayed in it by scoring 26 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers and grabbing an uncharacteristically high 15 offensive boards to Milwaukee’s seven. Once again, hot shooting is one powerful salve.

Carrying over their lights out performance from the night prior, Milwaukee started the game off smoking, with Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo combining to stake an early 11-2 lead on back-to-back-to-back threes. And yes, two of those came from Giannis. Boston stormed back on a 12-3 run, with Milwaukee’s discombobulated defense allowing wide open looks from the top of the arc. A chippy first quarter ensued, with plenty of boos and complaints from Boston players eventually leading to an Isaiah Thomas technical after arguing a foul call. Milwaukee and Boston went blow-for-blow, finishing the first tied at 24.

Mirza Teletovic hammered home two threes and Milwaukee scored ten unanswered points to start the second. Crisp ball movement continued to yield good looks for the Bucks, and guys like Hawes and Terry were kindly paying it off. A battle for a tipped ball between Middleton and Smart ended in bloodshed, as Smart’s elbow forced Middleton to enjoy the comfort of Kleenex in his nostrils. Following a tortuously long review, Middleton missed the ensuing technical free throw and Boston cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-43. Giannis managed to score four quick points in the closing minutes, and Milwaukee led 55-49 at half.

Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 15 points at the half, going a perfect 3-3 from deep. Giannis was close behind with 12 points and three steals while Teletovic chipped in eight. For Boston, Isaiah Thomas was the leader at 20 points. Avery Bradley was his closest running mate with eight points despite going 0-4 from three.

Neither team shot particularly well, 45.2% for Milwaukee and 42.1% for Boston, but the Bucks’ 8-17 half from behind the arc more than made up for it. The Bucks failed to capitalize on 11 Celtics’ turnovers though, scoring only five points despite Boston netting eleven points on Milwaukee’s seven turnovers.

Malcolm Brogdon started the second half with a scooping underhand finish past Amir Johnson, then baled out Khris Middleton with a baseline cut that led to a gentle lay-in. Boston battled back to make it close, penetrating Milwaukee’s defense and scoring inside while Thomas continued to rifle it in from the perimeter. Giannis kept Milwaukee in it by getting to the line, but Boston took its first lead at 72-70 since late in the first quarter. Milwaukee responded with a number of dump-offs at the hoop, first Monroe to Delly then Monroe scored on his own, and the Bucks took back the lead at 80-77 going into the fourth.

Greg Monroe took advantage in the post to start the final stanza, bowling through Jaylen Brown and hitting a hook shot before hollering “and-one” directly in the ear of traveling troubadour Kelly Olynyk.

Milwaukee maintained a three-point lead, 90-87, after Brogdon weakly fouled Tyler Zeller in transition allowing an and-one. Jason Kidd then downsized, putting in Giannis for Greg Monroe around the halfway point. Boston countered by putting Amir Johnson in at center. Milwaukee failed to find any rhythm with their smallball lineup, and Greg Monroe returned to the game while Boston’s Thomas and Smart combined to tie it up at 93. Malcolm Brogdon answered right back though with a finish of his own and subsequent floater. The next two buckets were both feeds from Brogdon too, one to Giannis the other to Monroe. Milwaukee led 101-96 with a little over a minute to go.

After Isaiah Thomas scored four straight to make it a one-point game, Malcolm Brogdon pounded out the clock, and threw up a prayer against Avery Bradley’s suffocating defense that rattled in for Humble Moses. The Bucks thwarted Boston’s impending inbound play and Marcus Smart’s off-kilter jumper couldn’t even catch backboard as the final buzzer rang. Bucks win 103-100.

Thoughts:

  • Giannis and Al Horford guarded each other to start off the game, with Thon Maker instead matching up with Amir Johnson. Horford’s basically a power forward masquerading as a center, but the matchup favored Milwaukee with Giannis able to get separation for perimeter jumpers. He generally looked much more comfortable than when Jae Crowder guarded him later in the period.
  • Malcolm Brogdon did a sneaky job of using his eyes to sell a first quarter pass to Khris Middleton for an open three. After driving baseline, Brogdon kept his peepers staring squarely at the hoop, drawing the defender in to help just long enough before whipping it out to a squatting Middleton for an easy hit.
  • Khris Middleton got smacked in the face for the second night in a row. Going up for a ball against Marcus Smart in the second quarter, Smart’s elbow whacked Middleton in the nose and started a steady stream of blood cascading down his face. At least he shot better tonight, hopefully that brightens Middleton’s spirits even if it won’t fix his bloody nose.
  • That play also resulted in a lengthy review whereby the refs took away a foul call from Marcus Smart, and instead applied one to Khris Middleton. It feels very silly they can look at a play where two dudes slammed into each other and somehow say one was at fault, while the other wasn’t. It apparently was announced the call was always on Khris Middleton, but even the telecast had little idea what was going on during the bizarre sequence.
  • Judging solely by the crowd reaction tonight, I am fairly certain Boston did not commit any real fouls and the Bucks’ committed many more than the referees called.
  • Your Thon titillation tonight comes courtesy of a rip-through move he put on Amir Johnson at the free throw line. He received the pass, and instead of pulling up or passing out to the perimeter, he ripped through and took Johnson off the dribble going to his right before finishing one-handed at the rim through contact. Outside of that one dunk in Detroit, he’s shown almost no ability off the dribble. It shouldn’t and probably won’t become much of his game, but it’s all about the flashes this year.
  • Outside of one stinker late last season, Greg Monroe has consistently been a rampaging Moose against Boston. That’s been largely due to their diminutive frontline, where Tyler Zeller roamed as the saddest giant since BFG. The presence of Al Horford finally provided a fitting defensive counter to Monroe at times, but Moose rebounded in the fourth when he scored eight points on strong finishes at the rim.
  • Milwaukee only attempted five threes in the second half and didn’t make any of them. They opted instead to attack the paint and it paid off with strong halves from Greg Monroe and Malcolm Brogdon.
  • Boston’s 15 offensive boards is an astounding statistic given they’re just the 24th best offensive rebounding team in terms of percentage. Granted, Milwaukee’s defensive rebounding is bottom-five, but that’s still an incredible amount to allow.
  • Late in the fourth, Marcus Smart blatantly pulled Giannis’ shoe on the baseline prompting a flagrant-1 foul after another lengthy review. The Boston crowd was appalled the refs had the nerve to call such an obvious misunderstanding against someone who just plays the game the way it’s meant to be played.
  • Malcolm Brogdon’s clutch performance was almost impeccable. Let’s recount some of what happened. First, he nearly had the ball stolen by Avery Bradley, only to return to the frontcourt and hit a tough shot over one of the game’s best defenders. Next, he beat that same premier defender again for a bucket. Then, he literally orchestrated the entire Bucks’ offense for two possessions, finding Giannis on a back cut and then working it to Monroe down low. This is now the second in four games that Brogdon has played a key role in closing out an opponent late after running clutch pick and rolls with Monroe last Friday against Atlanta. Finally, he got off a circus shot despite Avery Bradley defending him like Glover, and cemented a win for Milwaukee. For the purposes of this jubilation, we will choose to ignore Isaiah Thomas scooting by him for two easy baskets late. This guy deserves every bit of this icy celebration:
  • Not only did this game nearly pull Milwaukee even on road games for the year (18-19), but winning back-to-back and in a hostile environment like Boston bodes well for this team’s growth heading into the playoffs. Plus, it means they didn’t lose any ground to Atlanta, and the Pacers lost again tonight to the Grizzlies. Milwaukee now has a >99% chance to make the playoffs according to 538.
  • This team just won its last two games on the backs of an outcast whose team lost faith in him and a second round pick everyone said was too old to be worth picking earlier. What a time.