Milwaukee and Boston were both aware that while it may not matter at the end of the season, this game was still for the advantage in the season series. Coming in tied 1-1 with both being played at the Garden, both teams also knew that the Bucks hadn’t lost to the same team twice all season and didn’t plan to start tonight. In an incredible defensive game, Milwaukee came out on top 98-97 after Kyrie Irving missed a layup at the final buzzer.
The Bucks began the first quarter looking extremely rusty and lacking any real cohesion on the offensive side. The two teams combined to go 5-18 in the first 4 minutes and Milwaukee had turned the ball over 3 times when Coach Bud called a timeout to talk things over. I’m not sure what they talked about but it didn’t help as the Celtics proceeded to go on an 11-2 run to force another timeout with 5:14 left in the first, Bucks down 17-6. This timeout worked much better. Brand new Buck Nikola Mirotic checked in for his debut but it was Khris Middleton who hit some big shots to bring the Bucks right back in it. 7 turnovers hurt Milwaukee but some transition offense and high intensity defense left them down at the end of the first quarter, 22-20. Middleton led the Bucks with 7/3/3 but Bledsoe and Brogdon combined to go 0-5.
The second quarter looked more like an NBA game as both teams were hitting 3s and limiting turnovers despite a fast pace. After Milwaukee’s 3-15 start from the field, they followed it up by going 12-18 and looked like the Eastern Conference leaders that they are. Credit to Boston and Brad Stevens, they had a good game plan to stop Giannis early and make Brook Lopez a non-factor. But there is always a weakness, and the Bucks found it beyond the 3-point line. A timeout on the floor slowed the Bucks rhythm. They were non-existent on the defensive glass and were making sloppy passes left and right on the offensive end. Luckily Khris came to the rescue and finished the first half with a line of 12/6/3. Giannis, similarly, finished the half with 11/6/3. Kyrie Irving wasn’t much of a factor but was picked up by his teammates, led by Al Horford who had 10 points and 9 rebounds going into the locker room. Milwaukee held the lead over Boston, 53-47.
The second half began pretty much exactly the same as the first. Neither team could hit from any range and after 4 minutes the score had moved to just 56-53, Bucks. Luckily, a 6 minute scoreless streak for the Bucks didn’t hurt them. Giannis euro-stepped for a dunk to hold a 58-55 lead with 5 minutes left in the third. That was a big spark for Milwaukee’s offense and Nikola Mirotic’s first three put them up 64-58 to force a timeout with 3 minutes left. In the final minute, the Celtics threatened to take the lead but a Tony Snell 3 kept the lead at 72-68 after the third quarter. Giannis had good minutes and was pushing towards a double-double with 18 points and 9 boards to this point. Ersan and Mirotic were the other two components to the Bucks third quarter who combined to go 7-9 with 17 points. Kyrie found his shot and was one of three Celtics players to have 12 points going into the fourth.
As a Bucks fan, you couldn’t be much happier with the start to the final quarter. After a quick pull-up three from Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee followed it up with a Brook Lopez fade off one foot, a Brogdon layup, and a Brogdon three to force Brad Stevens to call an early timeout down by 8. Giannis showed why he was MVP with a three to go with a couple of powerful drives but hot 3-point shooting by the Celtics put them down 85-83 with 5 minutes to go in the game. A timeout on the floor didn’t slow Boston’s hot outside shooting and they took a 90-89 lead with 3 minutes left.
The game then became a hectic shootout on both ends that resulted in a Boston timeout with 32 second left, down 98-95 to the Bucks after a Middleton three. Kyrie put in a layup to put them down just one and on the other end Marcus Smart tied up Giannis with 0.2 seconds left on the shot clock and 3.7 seconds in the game. Here’s where it got confusing. Giannis tipped the jump ball to Lopez in the post who tipped the ball to the hoop and hit rim but missed. The ball was rebounded and a put back was attempted by Brogdon but the officials had already blown the whistle. This gave the ball back to Boston on the other end with 3.5 seconds left. There were conflicting views as to if this was the right call. In the end, Coach Bud was told after the game that the clock should’ve started when Lopez touched the ball but the official also said it wasn’t reviewable. Nevertheless, Boston had one last shot and that shot went to Kyrie. He threw up a wacky left-handed layup over Bledsoe as time expired and it hit both backboard and rim but not the bottom of the net. Milwaukee held on to win the season series with the Celtics after a final score of 98-97.
Giannis finished as the game’s leading scorer with 30 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 6 assists on 11-19 shooting and 1-1 from deep.
Middleton and Brogdon added 15-a-piece and each went 3-6 from beyond the arc.
Mirotic finished with 8 points on 3-7 shooting but was limited to just 14 minutes as he is still restricted due to his calf strain.
Kyrie led the Celtics with 22 points but wasn’t efficient by any means, taking an incredible 27 shots and only making 9. Al Horford continued to be an issue for the Bucks and he finished with 21 points on a slightly more efficient 8-21 from the floor.
Milwaukee improved their record to 44-14 and 24-5 at home. The Bucks had 44 wins all of last season. They now hold a 1.5 game lead over Toronto and 6 games over the third place Pacers with just 24 games left in the season. With the playoffs coming up, the Bucks have proven that they can compete with all of the East’s top teams. They are:
- 3-1 vs. #2 Toronto
- 2-1 vs. #3 Indiana
- 1-0 vs. #4 Philadelphia
- 2-1 vs. #5 Boston
The Bucks have another home game on Saturday against our neighbors to the West. The T-Wolves sit at the 11th seed in the West with a 27-30 record. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.