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Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. Boston defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 102-96, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
For better or worse, the Boston Celtics always find a way to make games interesting. At least this season, particularly the last two games. In both, the Celtics had sizable leads that were ultimately whittled down to a couple of points at the end. Yet in both cases, the Celts did enough to win.
Led by four clutch Kevin Garnett free throws (as well as an entire game's worth of solid play from the Big Ticket), the Celtics downed the Bucks, 102-96, after nearly collapsing in the fourth quarter. And it wasn't really a gentle collapse -- Boston nearly choked the game away in under two minutes. But again, KG came to the rescue, and it was a win.
KEVIN GARNETT'S UNDER THE RADAR PLAY FEULS CELTICS (AGAIN)
Kevin Garnett has played like an All-Star at points this season. People just haven't noticed. Garnett had another one of those types of games on Wednesday, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes. Garnett's four free throws in the final minute helped the Celtics put the nail in the coffin. His numbers per 48 minutes are really impressive -- KG is averaging 23.2 points and 12.4 rebounds. It's surprising that KG is going under the radar, especially to Doc Rivers.
"It's amazing," said Rivers. "It really has been all year; you look at his numbers and - it's amazing. Kevin, oh, Kevin is this...it's all you hear. And no one looks at his numbers. And I'll tell you where no one really looks is his numbers per minutes played. You know? It's not like Kevin is playing a ton of minutes, and he's still putting up numbers. He's just been a phenomenal guy to coach; I can tell you that every day."
Garnett's name may be tossed into the rumor mill as the trade deadline approaches, and for good reason. It's a good thing for the Celtics, either way. Keep KG, and the Celtics will may have a better shot at being successful down the stretch this season. Or if Danny Ainge is going to trade him, well, his improved play will help his value. It's a win-win.
RAJON RONDO, CELTICS' FLOOR GENERAL EXTRAORDINAIRE
Look at that, it's Rajon Rondo with another triple-double. Rondo had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, numbers that shouldn't surprise anyone. Rondo did it all, too (didn't you see the triple-double I just mentioned?). In the opening half, he scored -- Rondo had eight points in the first quarter and finished the half with 13. In the second half, he facilitated and snagged rebounds. Don't you just love Rondo? Don't you? Doc does.
"Yeah, that was great," Rivers said about Rondo. "I mean, what I was impressed with was more the second half than the first. The first half we scored points, but the second half was the first time in a while where he and the whole team - he just kept calling different sets and we ran our stuff to score instead of just trying to play out of random and figure it out. I thought that's what we did in the first half, and even though we had 50 points it was almost happenstance. We got the two threes at the end. The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that's who we were, and that's who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo's doing."
Still want to trade Rondo? You do? Well, then I don't think we can be friends anymore. Rondo brings so much to the table on both ends of the court. If the Celtics are going to trade him, the need a player of equal or greater value in return. It would be hard, if not impossible, to find that now.
BRANDON JENNINGS WITH AN UN-JENNINGS LIKE GAME (UNTIL THE END)
Rondo's not a one-dimensional player (I could go on and on about him, as you've probably noticed), as proven by his dominance against Bucks star guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings entered the game leading the Bucks in scoring with 18.2 points per game. Through 46 and a half minutes, Jennings scored zero points. It wasn't until the end that Jennings hit two threes back-to-back, and nearly a third, to bring Milwaukee back into the thick of things, that he was effective.
Jennings, who was 2-for-11 from the field, claims he was trying to get his teammates more involved and thought, because they were shooting well, he could lay off a little. That's true to some degree -- he had eight assists -- but he was still held in check defensively. The reason? Good defense, of course, a lot of which came back to Rondo.
"On both ends of the court Rondo played tremendous," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "He did a great job of shutting down Brandon Jennings, and he's out there getting rebounds, doing things, making passes, he made us a tough team to beat."
BOTTOM LINE: Sure, we would have liked to see the Celtics keep up the pace in these last two games, but both resulted in wins, so you can't argue too much. Recent struggles aside, it's good to see the Celtics taking these games seriously, as Doc Rivers suggested that they are buying into the theory that these are "grind games." Keep up the winning, and we'll take it any way it comes.
NEXT UP: The New Jersey Nets come to town on Friday night. Can the Celtics make it three wins in a row to start the second half of the season? Hopefully, but nothing is guaranteed with this team anymore. Nothing at all.
BOSTON - Brandon Bass (16 points) was a perfect 4-for-4 and scored nine points in the third quarter, in which the Boston Celtics outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 27-13, and Kevin Garnett (25 points, 10 rebounds) made his free throws to stave off a late Bucks comeback as the C's captured a 102-96 win on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
"I'm just glad we're back at .500," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, whose team has now won two straight after losing five in a row. " And we won the first two after the break and both games were grind games. Our guys are buying into that; they're starting to understand this is a grind second-half. We didn't play well in the first half. We ended the half with making two threes, to close out the half. It got us in reach and then we played well. We stuck in it. We stuck together, stayed in it, and that's what we have to do."
The Celtics (17-17) opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run and were a consistent 13-of-24 from the field (54.2 percent shooting). Milwaukee (14-21), meanwhile, couldn't find its shot and was made 5-of-22 shots collectively (22.7 percent) in the quarter. However, a late surge by the Bucks brought them within two points with 19 seconds left, but the Celtics made their free throws to preserve the victory.
"The last minute of the first half we kind of made some foolish plays," said Bucks head coach Scott Skiles. "Both halves they just got after us and we didn't have that much response. In the first half we weathered OK, came back and played really well. Third and fourth quarter, we didn't play well. We tried to scramble at the end and we made it interesting, but generally you are not going to beat them in that type of game."
Led by six points rom Ray Allen (2-or-2 from long distance), the Celtics jumped out to a 10-3 lead at the nine minute mark. The Bucks were held to just one field goal -- a three from Carlos Delfino - through the 7:20 mark, when Ersan Ilyasova (25 points, 10 rebounds) drilled a three. Boston led 17-13 with 4:22 left, but Milwaukee closed out the quarter on a 12-8 run to tie the game. Rajon Rondo -- who finished with a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) -- led the Celtics with eight first-quarter points while Ilyasova scored 10 in the frame.
"What I was impressed with was more the second half than the first," Rivers said about Rondo. "The first half we scored points, but the second half was the first time in a while where he and the whole team, he just kept calling different sets and we ran our stuff to score instead of just trying to play out of random [sets] and figure it out."
Using a 6-2 run to open the second, the Bucks grabbed a 31-27 lead with 9:04 left before halftime and built their lead up to 50-43 late in the quarter. Drew Gooden (23 points, 8 rebounds) had a big impact in the quarter, scoring 10 and finishing the half with a game-leading 16 points. Thanks to a coast-to-coast layup from Rondo and a Keyon Dooling three at the buzzer, the C's trimmed the deficit to four points, 54-50, at the break.
After the Celtics' dominant third quarter, the starters fumbled away the lead in the final minutes. Brandon Jennings (six points), the Bucks' leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, was held scoreless through the first 46 and a half minutes before finally draining a three with 1:31 left. After a steal, Jennings hit another three, bringing Milwaukee within five at 98-93 with 1:19 to go.
Jennings almost made it three consecutive threes after a missed Celtics shot, but he was off target. Ilyasova got the miss and was fouled, making one of two shots at the charity stripe. After another Celtics failed possession, Ilyasova converted on a second-chance bucket to bring the Bucks within two, 98-96, with 19 ticks to play.
Following a Bucks timeout, Garnett was fouled with 14.4 second left and made both free throws, giving the Celts some breathing room and a 100-96 lead. Jennings had a clean look for a layup on the next possession but missed, and after the Bucks got the rebound, Jennings moved to the corner, where he missed a critical three. Garnett got the board, was fouled and made his final two free throws to stomp out the rally.
Boston will have Thursday off before hosting the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.
BOSTON - Rajon Rondo (13 points, three assists) started well with eight first-quarter points, but the Boston Celtics could not contain the Milwaukee Bucks in the second quarters as the C's find themselves down, 54-50 at halftime on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Boston opened the half on a 10-3 run, led by two threes from Ray Allen -- one of which was a deep leaner off the shot clock that the three point king banked in. Rondo and Ray had six by the 4:22 mark, and the Celts led 17-13. Milwaukee closed out the quarter with a 12-8 run to tie the game at 25 after 12 minutes.
Using a 6-2 run to open the quarter, the Bucks slowly took control of the game and led 50-43 after a Carlos Delfino three with under two minutes remaining in the half. Drew Gooden took over in the quarter, scoring 10 points to finish with a game-leading 16 at the half. Rondo drained a coast-to-coast layup and Keyon Dooling hit a three after a steal to bring the C's within four at the break.
BOSTON - Jermaine O'Neal (sprained left wrist) will once again be inactive for the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night when they face the Milwaukee Bucks in their first home game after the All-Star break. Brandon Bass will get the start at power forward, meaning Kevin Garnett will play at center for the second straight night.
Other than that, though, the Celtics are healthy. O'Neal is the only player out for the Celtics, which is a good sign considering how snake-bitten they have been to start the 2011-12 season. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Bass, O'Neal, Chris Wilcox, Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and Mickael Pietrus have all missed time due to injuries this season.
Milwaukee is also without its star big man, Andrew Bogut, who is out with a fractured ankle, which may wind up ending the former No. 1 overall pick's season.
Let's embrace the reality, Boston. Paul Pierce, along with rest of the Big Three, may be nearing the end of his Celtics career. Pierce's name has been tied to many trade rumors lately, and the Celtics' play certainly isn't quieting them.
Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics (16-17) welcome Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks (14-20) to town in their first home game of the second half of the season at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).