BOSTON -- Unlike their football brethren in Foxborough, the Celtics have had no issues with closing out games.
While Boston let the Milwaukee Bucks hang around a bit longer than they might have liked Tuesday night at TD Garden, the Celtics held the visitors without a field goal over the final 4:50 to emerge with a 98-89 triumph.
"I think when we were in our last timeout with three minutes on the clock and we buckled down," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "Those are things we work on in practice. We always say we want to close the games out. The last three minutes we have certain players we want to run. Especially when we put the ball in [Rajon] Rondo's hands, get the ball down to Kevin [Garnett], play inside-out. And our defense goes up another notch in the last three minutes and that is something we emphasize in practice and that is what we try to do late in the game.”
The Bucks had just three free throws over the final three minutes as Boston pulled away when Garnett sandwiched jumpers around a Ray Allen 3-pointer.
Despite shooting 52.2 percent for the game (and limiting Milwaukee to 43 percent), the Bucks stayed in the game. Doc Rivers saw two flaws: free throw shooting (22 of 31, 71 percent for the Celtics) and rebounding (Milwaukee finished with a 44-35 edge, including 14 offensive rebounds leading to 13 second-chance points).
“It’s interesting, at halftime, we were shooting 58 percent and they were shooting 43 percent," said Rivers. "Usually 43 percent says their offense wasn’t that good, but it was. They got every loose ball, they got every long rebound and they scored more off the secondary action than the offense. That’s just awareness, quickness, but, it’s the physicality that we have to get to. I thought there was the one stretch in the fourth quarter where you could physically see bodies on bodies. And we got all the rebounds. And we’ve just got to get better at it.
"We’ve always been a good rebounding team over the last couple of years and right now we’re not. It’s that simple. And we can get away with winning now, but we’re not going to win in the long term if we don’t start rebounding.”