Celtics stop Bucks in record-setting win, 87-56

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Celtics stop Bucks in record-setting win, 87-56

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are not the same team defensively since the Feb. 24 trading deadline.

But for those who believe the C's defensive foundation was rubble-bound, take note of how the Celtics crushed the Milwaukee Bucks, 87-56, on Sunday.

It wasn't just another victory, which also snapped a two-game losing skid.

The Celtics delivered the defensive hammer with the kind of power and force we haven't seen from them all season.

"That's about as humiliating a defeat as you'll ever see," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles.

Rather than ease into the game, the Celtics starting five choose to put on the defensive clamps which made for an easy win.

"They got us on our heels and took our competitive fight away from us," Skiles said. "We pretty much gave into it."

It was a much-needed blowout for a team whose starting five has - lately at least - struggled to gain a firm grip at the outset of games.

Those problems of the past two games were nowhere to be found against the Bucks.

"It's nice," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to his first unit getting off to a good start. "When they do, we're a better team, obviously. That's what we're banking on right now until we get right. When they start out slow it puts us in a huge hole, because now you're dependent on a second unit that hasn't been together very long."

Boston did have a familiar face return to the lineup on Sunday.

Having missed the previous four games with a left knee injury, Davis came off the bench to score nine points along with grabbing seven rebounds.

But the story of the night was Boston's defense, which gave up a franchise record-low 56 points. The previous record was set against the Hawks -- who, ironically, were based in Milwaukee at the time, prior to moving to first St. Louis and then Atlanta -- in 1955.

Other records of note established by the Celtics on Sunday included:

franchise-low in points given up in a half (22);

franchise-low in points given up after three quarters (38)

franchise-low in fewest field goals allowed (22).

Also, the 56 points scored were a franchise record-low for the Bucks in the shot-clock era.

Even though the Celtics played a record-setting brand of defense, Rivers wasn't convinced his team deserves all the credit. The Bucks were in the second night of a back-to-back stretch, having played Saturday at home against Philadelphia.

"I really thought this was one of those scheduled losses for Milwaukee," Rivers said. "It was very similar to the game we had against Phoenix on Jan. 28. The Bucks played a game, and . . . then lost an hour going backwards from the Central time zone to the East. Then they lost another hour with the time change from Standard time to Daylight Savings Time. And then we started the game at 6 o'clock instead of the normal 7:30 starting time. I just thought . . . they were tired. We took advantage of that, and that was great. But a lot of it had to do with their schedule."

Schedule or not, the Celtics came out with the kind of focus and attention to detail on defense that we hadn't seen recently.

"It was definitely encouraging to just put together a four-quarter game of defense," said Paul Pierce. "I definitely thought we did that tonight."

Even more impressive was how very little changed for the Celtics defensively when they went to their bench.

Rivers elected to take Rajon Rondo out about midway through the first quarter, with the Celtics ahead, 10-4.

He had Carlos Arroyo finish out the quarter which ended with the Celtics going on a 10-5 run.

Boston continued to stifle the Bucks with a suffocating defense that took away everything the Bucks wanted to do.

And the struggles by Milwaukee started with point guard Brandon Jennings.

He had eight points and just one turnover, but there was never a point in the game where it seemed comfortable.

And his lack of comfort seemed to be contagious to the rest of the Bucks.

"We were so passive," Skiles said. "You could tell their plan was to jump on our point guard early, jump on our guard, get up into them, and see if we had any sort of response to it, and we didn't."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Zach Lowe’s most recent podcast is worth a listen, as it features plenty of talk about what the Celtics may or may not due ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. 

Lowe brought up the possibility of the Celtics top-1 or top-2-protecting Brooklyn’s first-round pick and including it in a deal for Butler. He surmises that the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick -- protected or not -- might not come until the final minutes. 

“Look, if Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that’s when it’s going to happen,” Marc Stein responded. “It’s going to happen in the last five to 10 minutes, so Boston has to make a decision, and let's see if they’re doing the math that they’ve had these assets for a while and it is time to do something bold and the time is now. Really, I think Boston will do it. The question is what will Chicago or Indiana do? And those are two hard reads.” 

Stein spoke to the Celtics’ lack of activity at certain points, but he said that if the C’s do fail to come away with a star player Thursday, it won’t be for lack of aggressiveness. 

MORE TRADE TALK

“I think the Celtics are taking criticism for waiting, and they’ve had all these assets they haven’t moved yet, but I think the record shows that Danny Ainge in general, in total, is very aggressive, not afraid to roll the dice, not afraid to make the aggressive move,” Stein said. “So I have less doubt about Boston saying, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have far more questions about what Chicago and/or Indiana would do.” 

Lowe said that he imagines the Bulls would “think about” trading the C's Butler if Boston threw in the Nets’ pick unprotected, but added that Chicago would demand to also take two players out of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. 

“I think that will be the offer and they’ll get there and Chicago will either have a moment where they say, ‘We walk away or we’ll do it.’ And Boston’s not going to throw in the other Nets pick,” Lowe said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Rating the aforementioned foursome in terms of trade value, Lowe said that Crowder is the best piece because of his “ridiculously good” contract, followed by Brown, Smart and Bradley. 

Lowe added that he considers Bradley one of the “sneaky interesting pieces at this trade deadline” because his contract is up after next season, which is the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires. Lowe says that given the uncertainty of his future in Boston, he wouldn’t be overly surprised if Bradley is moved at the deadline. 

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline? 

MORE TRADE TALK

Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.

Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.   

Wrote Isola: 

Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.

‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.

‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’

This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game.