Celtics-Bucks review: More missed opportunities for C's

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Celtics-Bucks review: More missed opportunities for C's

BOSTON The Boston Celtics had spurts of good play, but not enough to win on Friday against Milwaukee.

Sounds familiar?

It should.

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.

Saturday, Feb. 25: Shea Theodore waits for his time with Ducks

Saturday, Feb. 25: Shea Theodore waits for his time with Ducks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving two thumbs up to The Lego Batman Movie after a screening with my 3 1/2 year old.

*Alex Prewitt has a profile on Anaheim defenseman prospect Shea Theodore as he waits for his time with the Ducks.

*The Vancouver Canucks have a mumps problem this season, and we continue to wonder why this is becoming an issue again in a first-world society.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has Patrick Eaves dealt to the Ducks for what could be first round pick if Anaheim advances far enough through the playoffs.

*Flyers GM Ron Hextall says that Philly’s young team won’t be buying ahead of next week’s NHL trade deadline.

*Along with his “Sutter-isms”, diversity is a family value for the Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter.

*Dave Strader gets back into the broadcast booth with the Dallas Stars, and will be a welcomed addition to the national NBC broadcast of Bruins/Stars on Sunday afternoon.

*As cold as he was earlier in the season, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is heating up now for the Blueshirts.

*For something completely different: Brie Larson is already prepping for her role as Captain Marvel by stepping up her game as an influence for positive change among her Hollywood peers.


 
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.