BOSTON The Boston Celtics had spurts of good play, but not enough to win on Friday against Milwaukee.
That has been the essence of what this season has been like for the Celtics as they lost yet another winnable game, 99-94, in overtime.
Even though Boston spent the bulk of the first half with a lead, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't feel good about his team clinging to a three-point lead at the half.
"I was concerned because I thought we should've been up 15 points," Rivers said.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Celtics continued to miss one good-looking jumper after another.
"It was a frustrating game," Rivers said.
For fans, the coaches but especially the players.
"One thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end; we are inconsistent," said Paul Pierce. "We can't give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can't give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that's when we want to play defense."
Indeed, inconsistent play was among the factors that snapped the Celtics' five-game home winning streak on Friday. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Paul Pierce carried the C's to a season-high 40 points on Wednesday. No one should expect another night like that from the Captain, but he really does have to deliver 20 or so points consistently for this team to win.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce continues to be the one player who is doing more than just talking about playing better - he's actually doing it. The Captain could not have given the C's more than he did on Friday, tallying a game-high 35 points along with 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Rivers had no choice but to go to Pierce often."When everybody's not making shots you're down, you're looking for whoever is making shots," Rivers said. "And I thought Paul had to work way too hard for his shots."
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Larry Sanders: Now that Garnett is back to playing the power forward spot full-time, we'll see if that helps him do a better job on Sanders who has emerged as one of the league's most improved players this season. This season, Sanders is averaging 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds against the Celtics.
WHAT WE SAW: This matchup was clearly won by Sanders who finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Among his most important plays was blocking a Paul Pierce 3-point shot that would have tied the game in overtime, and hustling down court to finish off the play with an uncontested dunk. "He's definitely growing as a player," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "There's no doubt about that."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green has been in a bit of an offensive lull lately, but the Bucks just might be what he needs to snap out of it. Some of Green's best play this season has come against Milwaukee, a team that he averages 13.7 points per game against this season while shooting 57.1 percent from the field.
WHAT WE SAW: True to form, Green had a much better showing against the Bucks then he had in some of the C's more recent games. He came off the bench to score 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting before leaving the game in the fourth quarter after suffering a bruised left cheek injury and some chipped teeth when he was hit with an elbow from Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova.
STAT TO TRACK: A solid night defensively by the Celtics should lead to plenty of fast-break opportunities against a Milwaukee team that has had issues with their transition defense. The Bucks give up 16.3 points on fast breaks per game this season which ranks last in the NBA. That should help the C's improve upon their 13.5 fast break points per game average which ranks 16th in the league.
WHAT WE SAW: The C's had a good pace as far as equalling or surpassing the fast-break points allowed by the Bucks. At the half, Boston had eight fast-break points and finished with 14 for the night.