|Celtics come up short down the stretch in loss to Bucks||03.29.17 at 11:00 pm ET|
After erasing a 14-point deficit, the Celtics couldn’t put a lid on Milwaukee’s inside scoring and came up short in the final minute of regulation.
Celtics made two consecutive defensive stops in the final minute — one by Al Horford on All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the other was a 24-second violation — and Isaiah Thomas’ layup pulled the Celtics to within one point (101-100). Just when you thought the Celtics had one more stop left in them, Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogdon hit a 16-foot jumper as the shot clock expired that gave the Bucks a three-point lead with three ticks left.
In the final play of the night, Boston’s inbound pass to Thomas was deflected and ended up in the hands of Marcus Smart, who double-pumped a desperation 3-pointer that was nowhere near the rim as time expired. The Bucks defeated the Celtics, 103-100 and are now tied with the Hawks for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are now in a virtual tie with the Cavaliers for the top spot. Bucks snapped a four-game winning streak.
The C’s had a hard time trying to contain Antetokounmpo as he cruised to 22 points on 8-of-17 shots. He led four Bucks in double figures, getting help from Khris Middleton (19 points), Brogdon (16 points) and Greg Monroe (16 points).
Thomas dropped a game-high 32 points, Jae Crowder scored 13 points, Avery Bradley notched a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Horford chipped in 11 points.
|Celtics pregame: Stevens on facing Giannis Antetokounmpo, ‘Don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody like him’||at 7:27 pm ET|
The Celtics will undoubtedly have their hands full on Wednesday as they gear up to face one of the hottest teams in the league.
Fresh off their 118-108 win at Charlotte, the Bucks will look to make it two in a row against the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back. Celtics coach Brad Stevens couldn’t say enough about Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo — who is probably the biggest reason why Milwaukee has gone from a lottery team to the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference.
“He does some things,” Stevens said. “That’s the best way to say it. He keeps adding to it. Him in transition is like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody like him.”
The Greek Freak enters Wednesday’s game averaging 23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Russell Westbrook and James Harden and the only other players averaging 23-plus points, 8-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists.
“As he’s become more skilled,” Stevens said. “He continues to put you in a worst bind. He’s tough; he’s good.”
Milwaukee’s supporting cast has also been a key to their success. The return of Khris Middleton (left hamstring) has definitely helped throughout their recent stretch, rookie Malcom Brogdon (10.2 points) has emerged as a reliable outside threat and Greg Monroe is embracing his newfound 6th man role — averaging 12 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench.
Middleton has been on fire this month, averaging 16.8 points and shooting 46.5 percent from the floor, including 40.9 percent from behind the arc.
“Middleton spaces the floor, he can run off screens and score,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good scorer cutting off the ball. He’s gotten better, I think, as time’s gone on in pick-and-roll and with the ball. And then he’s a knockdown shooter.”
The Bucks (38-36) have won 12 of their last 15 games. In what could be a possible first-round matchup for the Celtics, Boston will get another crack at beating Milwaukee in their final game of the regular season on April 12.
|How hard will Brad Stevens push for home court? ‘That’s so far down the road for me’||04.08.16 at 6:55 pm ET|
There’s no question that home court advantage plays a role in the NBA playoffs.
The real issue is how hard does Brad Stevens step on the gas in the final week to get a potential Game 7 on the TD Garden parquet?
The 46-32 Celtics enter Friday night a half-game behind the Hawks (47-32) for third in the East, with a chance to pull into a tie heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Atlanta. Boston is tied with Miami for fourth. Both are a game ahead of Charlotte. A showdown with the Hornets at the Garden looms Monday night before the Celtics wrap up the regular season against the Heat Wednesday night in Boston.
So much to consider but first the games need to be played – and won.
“I think the biggest thing is we want to try to be playing our best,” Stevens said pregame Friday. “We want to play well, we’re focused on that. Regardless of the guys that are in the game, we need to be playing at a good rate, defensively and offensively, as we head into next week. Obviously, health is incredibly important as you get into the playoffs but there’s a lot of things that go into being successful and we want to be playing well.”
Will Stevens consider rest players?
“If they need it,” Stevens answered. “See how it goes, see who you’re playing and all that other stuff. I don’t think you can make any decisions until you know who you are playing and what kind of matchup problems they present.
“It would be nice to be done in four. That’s so far down the road for me, I’m not even thinking about it. So, we could play really well in any of the next four games and get beat. But we have to just focus on playing on the way that we can play. We’re playing good teams. We’re playing very talented teams.
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