Rapid Reaction: Bucks 91, Celtics 88

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

Celtics captain Paul Pierce at work against old friend Marquis Daniels.Rapid reaction after the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 91-88 on Saturday evening at the Bradley Center:


Larry Sanders (18 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks) and Ersan Ilyasova (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) provided a much-needed bench spark for the slow-starting Bucks, but it was Brandon Jennings (13 points, 6 rebounds) who produced the biggest shot of the night with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play to lift rally-happy Milwaukee. Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored a game-high 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting, while Jason Terry added a double-double (15 points, 11 assists), but both players missed long 3-pointers in the closing moments that could have forced overtime.


The Celtics picked up right where they left off Friday, playing inspired defense from the jump and holding the Bucks scoreless over the game's first 5 1/2 minutes. Boston made seven of its first eight shots while opening a 17-0 lead before Ilyasova's 16-footer broke up the shutout with 6:29 to play in the first frame. The Bucks shot a mere 26.3 percent (5-of-19) in the first quarter and mustered only 11 points as Boston led by 16 after one frame. But the Bucks wasted little time making things interesting again.


Everything good that Boston did in the first quarter disappeared in the second. Ilyasova and Sanders lit the fuse, and the Bucks shot 63.6 percent (14-of-22) while outscoring Boston 36-21 in the second frame. The Celtics led by just one at the intermission, and a Monta Ellis layup 91 seconds into the third quarter gave Milwaukee its first lead of the night.


The Bucks opened a six-pont advantage early in the fourth quarter, but Boston chipped away, then appeared to be taking control when Jeff Green and Pierce hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Celtics out front 88-85 with 1:44 to go. Unfazed, Milwaukee got a generous offensive foul call on Kevin Garnett (negating what would have been an easy bucket) before generating a dunk from Sanders to make it a one-point game. That set up Jennings' heroics with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. The Celtics had three chances at triples to pull ahead or tie, and none would fall.


Considering the way the game started, it's somewhat improbable that Boston fumbled away this game. A 17-point lead should be somewhat insurmountable, but there still were 41 minutes to play, and the Bucks didn't even bother chipping away; they simply made things interesting again in a hurry. Garnett (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Green (18 points, 6 rebounds) shouldered the load for Boston at times, but things just slipped away late and Milwaukee made some big shots. The Celtics are left kicking themselves while falling to 9-8 on the season. Boston had a chance to pick up two wins while Rajon Rondo was suspended but kicked this one away. The Celtics will be left with that bitter taste in their mouths for three days before getting back on the court Wednesday when old friend Greg Stiemsma and the Minnesota Timberwolves visit TD Garden.