Larry Sanders sat on the bench during a late timeout, his mouth gushing blood.
The cut came from one of the multiple times the Bucks forward was hit in the face during Friday’s contest. Instead of losing his cool, Sanders hit them back, but not literally. He let his play do the talking.
With the Bucks up three with 18 seconds left in overtime, Sanders blocked Paul Pierce’s attempt at a tying 3-pointer, then sprinted the length of the court to receive a pass from Brandon Jennings and cement the victory over Boston with a dunk.
And cementing Friday’s victory came a lot more difficult to the Bucks than they would have liked. Milwaukee managed to cough up a seven-point lead with 33 seconds left in regulation, missing three free throws in the stretch.
Still, with the ball and up three with nine seconds left, Jennings threw the ball away, leading to a fast-break 3-pointer by Celtics guard Jason Terry. He missed, but Paul Pierce didn’t on the reload, tying the game at 88-all with 2.5 seconds left.
With the TD Garden rocking, the Bucks had to settle for a rushed shot by Sanders, sending the game to overtime. Often times the team with the momentum heading to the extra session runs away in overtime, but the Bucks showed tremendous determination, finding a way to win.
“We didn’t take care of our own business at the end,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of the end of regulation. “They got two open threes, (Pierce) had the second one and more often than not he’s going to knock it down.
“We showed some resolve and came out with the win. That’s a good sign for us.”
Sanders finished with 17 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Only Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, Lakers center Dwight Howard and Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao have recorded 20 rebounds against the Celtics in the Garnett-era prior to Sanders accomplishing the feat Friday. His 18 defensive rebounds were two shy of the most in a single game in franchise history.
“Coming into the game you know how physical they play and how hard KG plays,” Sanders said. (I just) tried to control my emotions and I just tried to stick with it.”
While the Bucks could have looked back at many things if they would have lost the game in overtime, Milwaukee was also fortunate to even have a lead to blow. Boston turned 23 Bucks turnovers into 29 points.
Throw in 14 missed free throws and it’s easy to see why the Celtics had a chance. If Boston would have shot over 38 percent, it probably would have won the game.
“That kept us in the game; that was the equalizer,” Skiles said of Boston’s missed shots. “And even though we didn’t make a good percentage of our free throws, we still had plenty of them.”
Friday’s win felt big. And to an extent, it was. Milwaukee has now won three of four from the Celtics and has won the season series from the Celtics for the first time since 2005-06. That happens to be the last year the Bucks had won two games in Boston, as well.
While Sanders said this was a win that will help the Bucks come April, Skiles held back from getting too far ahead of himself.
“It may mean nothing,” Skiles said. “It may just be a win, but we’ll see.”