The Boston Celtics staged a furious comeback attempt that fell just short, as they fell 121-119 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics trailed by as much as 25 in this one, and brought the game all the way to back to it’s final score, with Daniel Theis putting just too much on a potential game-winning three. There’s a lot to digest from this game, as the comeback certainly inspired hope that the Celtics could be trending upward, but the Celtics had some rough stretches that just continue to haunt them. Khris Middleton led all scorers with 27, while Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker chipped in 24 and 23 respectively.
The Celtics were able to hang around with the Bucks for most of the first half, but still ended up trailing at the break by a score of 70-59. While the Celtics were able to hit their shots, the Bucks just hit more of theirs. While some shots were poorly defended, the Bucks just refused to miss for the most part. They also did this while somehow only getting four points from their star player Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the Celtics diverted a lot of attention to him, and the Bucks made them pay.
The Celtics then endured a horrid opening stretch to start the third quarter that would ultimately cost them the game. The Bucks opened the quarter by going on a 20-6 run that put the Celtics down by 25 points, which ended up proving to be just too much for them to overcome. With the Celtics down by such a deficit, it seemed like the game was as good as over. Yet in a surprising twist of events, the Celtics managed to stick around, and claw their way back to a respectable deficit, heading into the fourth down 100-86. Kemba Walker did all he could to keep the Celtics in it, as he had 14 points in the frame, and was the leading force behind the Celtics late third quarter surge.
The Celtics spent most of the fourth quarter trailing by double digits, before making a final push in the last four minutes. Jaylen Brown hit a three pointer with 90 seconds left to bring the score to its final tally, as neither team proceeded to score again in a hectic final sequence. Marcus Smart missed a wide open three on the next possession that would have given the C’s the lead, Kemba Walker was blocked on a fastbreak layup, and then Smart was again rejected on a potential game-tying layup with two seconds left. The Celtics initially looked like they weren’t going to be able to get a shot, as Smart’s inbound pass was intercepted, only for Giannis to somehow let the ball slip back out of bounds. That set the stage for Theis in the corner with a wide open look that just wouldn’t fall.
Despite the end result, there’s a lot to like about the Celtics performance tonight. This was the first time in awhile that the Celtics seemed like they wanted to win, and wouldn’t accept the position they found themselves in. Down 25, it seemed like coach Brad Stevens was getting the reserves ready for action, only for the Celtics to end up making a game of it. The resolve they showed tonight was reminiscent of past Celtics teams, and provides hope that this team may be finally finding their footing. Kemba Walker finally looked like his old self for the first time in awhile, as he led the Celtics back into the contest. They may be under .500 for now, but the Celtics put up a performance at the end of the game that gives them something to build off for once.
The Celtics also ratcheted up their defensive intensity towards the end of the game, showing that they can perform like they had done in the past. For too much of this game, the Celtics left shooters with too much space, as they gave Giannis way too much attention. While it worked and Giannis only ended up with 13 points, the Bucks secondary players torched the C’s. Khris Middleton seemed to get whatever shot he wanted, whenever he wanted for most of the game. Bobby Portis was basically ignored when he was on the court, and he dropped 21 off the bench, including a couple of wide open corner threes. Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo dropped 17 apiece, with DiVincenzo in particular getting left open way too much. The C’s showed that they can play solid defense at the end of this one, but they’ve got to find a way to translate that to a full game.
The Celtics will have a chance to build off their solid fourth quarter showing against the Bucks again on Friday night, as they finish off this short two game mini series. The Celtics proved tonight that they can hang around with the Bucks, and they will have a chance to prove that they can do it over the course of a full game this time around. The big question is whether or not the roster will look any different come Friday’s game, with the NBA Trade Deadline set for 3 PM tomorrow.
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