Paul Pierce scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Boston Celtics squeaked past the Milwaukee Bucks, 96-92, Saturday night from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI.
Through the first five games of the year, the Celtics were a passive group of veterans, slow on defensive rotations and unable to find the open man on offense.
They were well on their way to doing the same Saturday against the Bucks when something clicked at the half, down 42-39.
Boston came out of the gate firing in the third quarter; a Pierce dunk, back-to-back Jason Terry treys and the Celtics were back in the game, taking a quick 53-47 lead. The Bucks would use an 8-0 run to retake the lead, 55-53 late in the third, including a 6-0 stretch with Kevin Garnett on the bench.
Milwaukee would lead 68-64 heading into the fourth, that is until Jeff Green came alive. Green had eight points in the final frame to get the Celtics close and then it was Pierce's turn to run the show. Pierce and Bucks' guard Monta Ellis went shot-for-shot down the stretch, with their respective teams trading leads.
With the Celtics up two points and Milwaukee in possession, Green would make the game-saving steal with eight seconds remaining in the contest, allowing Pierce to notch a free throw and send Boston back to .500 on the year.
In his first start of the year, Boston guard Terry had 15 points over 22 minutes. He scored six points in the first half and followed that up with six points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to help Boston get back into the game.
After having 10 or more assists in the previous 29-straight games, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo barely kept the streak alive with 10 assists on the night.
Ellis had 32 points and eight assists to lead Milwaukee, while Samuel Dalembert ate up the middle, scoring a season-high 14 points to go along with eight boards.
Boston will have an opportunity to climb back over .500 when they match up with the Chicago Bulls Monday from the United Center in Chicago, IL at 8:00 pm ET.
Rajon Rondo had seven points and five assists as the Boston Celtics trail the Milwaukee Bucks at halftime, 42-39, from the BMO Harris Bradley Center Saturday night in Milwaukee, WI.
Through the first half of Saturday's contest Celtics' head coach Doc Rivers seems to have fixed the Kevin Garnett-to-the-bench problem.
With Boston trailing 7-11 at the 6:35 mark in the first quarter, Garnett exited to the bench, with Chris Wilcox taking his place. Garnett returned at the 1:12 mark with score tied 20-20 as Wilcox held his own, scoring four points, but providing solid defense and transition offense.
With or without Garnett on the floor though, the Celtics are still struggling with defensive rotations and interior defense.
All 10 of the Bucks field goals in the first quarter were in the paint, finishing the first half with a 30-14 disparity of points in the paint.
Boston shot 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over 10 times in the half. Milwaukee connected on 40 percent from the field, but shot just 10 percent from three-point land.
Monta Ellis leads the Bucks with 13 points, while Garnett has 10 for the Celtics.
Coming into Saturday's game against the Celtics, Milwaukee center Samuel Dalembert had a season-high of eight points. In the first half, Dalembert had nine points, all of which were in the first quarter.