(From the Daily Dime Live) “Zach Lowe (Celtics Hub) – And we are tied entering the 4th quarter. If you’re a sub-.500 team who plays hard, you are almost guaranteed to play the C’s close in Boston this season. It’s uncanny.”
Unfortunately for the Bucks, that doesn’t necessarily result in wins. Yes, playing hard is great and coming close against the Celtics is fun, but ultimately losing sucks. While this game wasn’t nearly as frustrating as the Cleveland Blowout last Sunday, it wasn’t very satisfying to see the Bucks put it together when they needed it most. If they got a stop, they couldn’t get a bucket. If they got a bucket, they couldn’t get a stop. Ultimately they blew it over a two and a half minute stretch in the fourth.
The most difficult thing to swallow about this stretch is the Bucks inability to even get a shot up. Two turnovers by Andrew Bogut and one from Brandon Jennings. That’s the just the strength of the Celtic defense. Sure, Bogut burned them for 25 points, but when push came to shove, the Celtics ramped it up a notch. On Jennings turnover in particular the Bucks looked especially passive and Jennings looked like a rookie for certain. Kevin Garnett jumped out and looked mischevious like he always does and Jennings looked rattled before coughing it up on a double dribble. That’s the kinds of mental breakdowns that solid veteran teams to not make. In time my friends, in time.
- Bogut’s aforementioned 25 points were accompanied by 14 rebounds and five assists. A healthy stat line for sure, but the seven turnovers that balanced the bad with the good for the evening were no fun. Bogut took 17 shots, a good total considering how he had it going early. Bogut missed his first shot, but kept on the aggressive all evening against the typically stout defender Kendrick Perkins. Bogut’s face up game in particular looked sharp. He gave Perkins problems on a few occasions with a quick dribble move to the hoop before falling back on his trust hook shots around the hoop. The turnovers were a product of tough team defense from Boston and that is to be expected. They didn’t really hurt until the fourth quarter stretch that helped to put the Bucks out of the game.
- Jennings was more convincing inside the arc in this one, going 7-12 inside of 15 feet on the night. Sure, his three-point shooting ability abandoned him as quickly as his inside game came on the evening, but it’s still nice to see him making shots he hasn’t been over the past couple weeks, including a few runners and tear drops that were particularly sweet. The poor shooting from distance may have had something to do with the long arms of Rajon Rondo bothering a few of his shots, but he did miss some wide open ones he usually knocks down. It’s never going to be easy for the Bucks to beat good teams this year, but it’s going to be nearly impossible if either Bogut or Jennings isn’t doing what they are capable of. And Jennings did not play like he’s really capable Tuesday.
- Ersan Ilyasova was aggressive and appeared unafraid of the vaunted Celtics front line. But that didn’t prevent him from shooting 6-17 from the field on his way to 19 points and eight rebounds.
- KG was tough all night. I mean, when his jump shot is going down at the rate it was, what can you do? 5-8 from outside of 14 feet. Ersan did everything he could against KG, but everything he can do KG can do better it seems. There is a level of athleticism that KG still has that Ersan simply never will and he translated that into some beautiful post moves and dunks that Ersan couldn’t handle. The inside/outside game KG had working was just deadly.
- Rondo may not have scored until the fourth quarter, but he put in 11 in the fourth and controlled the whole game with his incredible passing skills and rebounding prowess. Rondo sees a lot of things before the rest of us see them and it leads to sweet touch passes and easy layups for his teammates that we don’t see coming. Sure, Rondo can’t hit a jump shot, but that’s irrelevant because if his defender lays off of him Rondo will drive right up the guys mouth and still get by him. He’s got wild athleticism and rarely makes a bad decision once he gets past the first level of defense. A clinic for Jennings to learn from was put on by Rondo tonight. And that’s before I even get into the number of passes Rondo deflects. Man.
- The C’s defend the HELL out of the pick and roll. Regardless if it’s KG or Perkins or Brian Scalabrine, they hedge so hard they force the ball handler off course and recover before any substantial moves can get made. It’s an incredible amount of effort and smarts and had a lot to do with the Bucks 43 percent shooting on the night.
- Everyone knows Rasheed Wallace is now mainly just a three-point shooter at this point, so it’s extra frustrating when he hits 3-4 from deep. ‘Sheed hit two in the fourth with the C’s up two and three at the time of each make. If he bricks those the Bucks get the ball back in a one possession game and have that much better a chance to pull this one out. Even worse was the whole “Sheeeeeeed” chant we have to endure as he lofts them up there. Ugh. (Note: I’d be leading that chant were he a Buck.”
Toronto Wednesday and Portland Saturday. Both at home and both with at least a tinge of winnableness to them. Neither of them are too intimidating and the Bucks can at least feel average about themselves after hanging with a very good Celtics team on the road. That’s more than they can say about the way they felt after the Pistons and Cavs games. It’s funny that they were able to stick with the C’s in this one, but that’s the Bucks right now. No consistency, a point most well evidenced by Bogut’s five games since returning from his leg injury. Coach Scott Skiles summed it up well before the Bucks game against Cleveland:
We compete when things are going our way, when they stop going our way, we don’t. That’s something we have to change. We’ve made strides but it’s not where it needs to be. We have guys who have too many wild swings, you know, one night they’ll have a ton of energy play a great game and two days later have a game where it looks like we’ve never played a game before. There’s a reason that teams win consistently in the league and other team’s don’t and that’s one one them. Just the consistency and reliability of the effort and energy of their players.
So as the Bucks search for that consistency and reliability we can only hope it will once again show up on Wednesday night. After this one I feel better about the chances they will than I did after the game Sunday.