Milwaukee fizzles out late
The odds of an NBA team winning three of its first four games against one team are probably slim to none. But the Milwaukee Bucks had a chance to do just that against the Boston Celtics with a victory Tuesday night.
With two wins over the Celtics already in hand, the Bucks couldn’t make it three for three. Boston survived Milwaukee’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt and hung on for a 108-100 victory at TD Garden.
“It’s very hard when you (play a) team three times in a month to beat them three consecutive times,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “But tonight they were the better team tonight. They made their plays down the stretch and we didn’t.
“I just think Boston is a really good team. They have guys who can make shots, they are physical, they have speed, they have guys who they can throw to in the post, I think they are a good team.”
After struggling against Milwaukee’s zone defense on Saturday, Boston successfully pushed the pace early and got easy buckets before the Bucks could settle in defensively. Though the Celtics were able to hit more shots against the zone Tuesday, Drew was pleased with what playing an occasional zone did for his team.
“We played it throughout the game,” Drew said of the zone.”It was good for us. It accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish. Whatever defense we play, we don’t get discouraged because teams score on it.
“They made some shots against it tonight, but I felt like it accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish, as far as us playing at a rhythm and pace we wanted to play at. I thought we were able to do that.”
The Bucks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, as 13 turnovers resulted in 17 Celtics points by halftime. Milwaukee was able to cut the deficit to 48-41 at the break, but trailed despite shooting 48.6 percent to Boston’s 41.5.
“We just got in trouble with our turnovers in the first half,” Drew said. “You just can’t do that on the road. Then our inability to keep them off the free-throw line in the first half, they got to the free-throw line a number of times. We weren’t moving our feet and were fouling.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Khris Middleton and O.J. Mayo cut Boston’s lead to 55-53 with 8:32 left in the third quarter, and the Bucks trailed by just two points with 4:15 remaining in the period. But a pair of 3-pointers by Jeff Green grew the deficit to eight points and the Celtics led 69-63 heading to the fourth quarter.
Down by 13 with 7:50 left, the Bucks went on a 25-15 run to trail 99-96 after Brandon Knight knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:09 to play. Milwaukee played a good defensive possession on the other end, but Jared Sullinger hit a tough, fade-away jumper to ice the game with 45 seconds left.
The Bucks came up empty on their next three possessions and the Celtics pulled away to finally beat Milwaukee.
“That’s the bottom line; they did make plays down the stretch,” Drew said. “They made some timely shots. Sullinger hit one down the stretch, (Jordan) Crawford hit one where he was three feet beyond the 3-point line and there were two 3s that Jeff Green hit. I thought we were right there. He just made tough shots.
“We had opportunities going down the stretch. On the road you just want to be in striking distance and we were within striking distance, we just didn’t make the plays down the stretch.”
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter