The Milwaukee Bucks are always a tough team to beat no matter if the game is in Boston, or as happened tonight, Wisconsin. The Celtics had come off a tough loss to Dallas just the night before in Boston, so it was an overnight trip to the Cheesy Palace.
The Celtics needed to be able to keep up on the scoreboard--and, of course to stay up on the boards, something they had NOT done so well to that point.
Pierce also would be looking to
stuff the game in George Karl's face after comments made following the
disappointiong World Championships the previous summer.
Ray Allen started the game getting fouled en route to the hoop and promptly sank both free throws to give the Bucks the opening lead at 2-0. The Celtics looked inside to Eric Williams and he answered with a good hoop.
The Bucks made it clear they planned to shoot the three with the same abandon as the Celtics. The question was--who would prove more accurate? The answer became quickly apparent: Milwaukee. The Celtics moved the ball well, but couldn't generate offense.
Ray Allen, on the other paw, looked really comfy shooting threes. After a few minutes and a timeout, the Bucks held a 16-7 lead, and things already looked bad for Boston. Sam Cassell was inside, Ray Allen outside, and nobody on their team seemed capable of missing. By contrast, the Good Guys looked all too fallable.
The refs had a prolonged conversation at one point and remembered that they were supposed to penalize Boston at every turn, which they did. Aarggh.
Eric Williams and Tony Battie did their best to keep the C's in the thick of it, but Pierce couldn't seem to get things together. Tony Delk shot a really bad air ball, and unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last air ball Boston threw up that night. Only the C's defense was effective really effective to this point, though by scratching and clawing, the Good Guys managed to close the gap as the quarter wound down.
Vin Baker came in, and found that Milwaukee fans had forgottenhe used to play there, judging from their lack of reaction.
Milwaukee hit a small shooting drought, yet despite the aggressive work on the boards, weren't really able to take full advantage of things. The drought ended quickly, and the quarter ended as Pierce drained a three to cut the Bucks lead to 29-26.
The stats to this point were pretty
close. The C's held the FGP edge 44%-43%, but mostly because they
took a lot more shots. The threes were so-so for Boston, 3-7, but
Milwaukee was 5-8. Miraculously, the C's were 3-4 from the line,
and the Bucks were 4-4. This was still anyone's game, though it was
apparent that Milwaukee's offense was coming more easily than Boston's.
The C's had good defense, but the Bucks were hitting those outside shots.
Things picked up pretty well where they'd left off. The Bucks were moving more smoothly, while Boston was fighting for everything. The benches for both teams were now in, and that meant trouble for the Good Guys, as the Buck's bench was notable for their high scoring.
Throughout the quarter, the Bucks held off Boston's attempts to mount a run, generally keeping a five point lead through the first half of the quarter. This despite the C's going to the free throw line twice as often as Milwaukee to this point.
As the quarter wound down, the C's pulled themselves into a tie at 44, before Walker got hit with a "T"--after the Ref looked to me like he was making fun of Walker. The C's problem was they would get fouled going to the hoop--and not make the basket (to say nothing of one of the free throws) Instead of a potential three point play, they often ended up with one point for all their work. Despite the adversity, the C's gained a lead of 46-45 --their first of the game-- with 4 minutes to go in the second quarter. The Bucks, however, fought back and the half ended with Milwaukee leading it, 54-53.
The game was VERY close to this point, but there was a question of the C's having enough gas to finish strong, given all the effort they'd expended to this point. While Boston was shooting 48% from the field, the Bucks were hitting 45%--much too high for the C's defense. The free throws were more telling to this time, as Boston was 11-16, while the Bucks were 9-10. The threes were killing the Good Guys tonight, only 4-10 for Boston, compared to 7-13 for the Bucks. Rebounds were ok, with the Bucks holding a 20-18 edge. The Boston Bench wasn't looking so hot, being outscored by Milwaukee's bench 16-9. The C's were recognizing that the outside game wasn't there, and had more than doubled paint points, 26-12.
It was going to come down to two
things--stamina on defense, and somehow containing Milwaukee's outside
shooting--if the C's were to have a chance to win this game.
Pierce opened with a three, and got my hoped up. Unfortunately, the Bucks were still scoring, and on the next posession, Pierce went back to missing. Tony Delk came in hard to the hoop, but again, the C's were having to work harder for every hoop, relying on Tony Battie to keep them on the boards.
Eric Williams got called for a flagrant foul--that'll happen when, on your way down to the floor, you grab the other guy's arm and drag him down with you. The good news was the foulee was Dan Gadzuric, who threw an air ball on a free throw. Yeek. This is a guy you want to send to the line every time he gets the ball.
Sad to say, the C's spent the next few minutes not scoring. Milwaukee noticed this as they went in hard to the hoop. Finally, Pierce hit a shot. Walker also went in hard and drew the foul. Following a timeout, Walker had a chance to tie the game on a free throw with 5:39 to go.
The Bucks increased the lead on the next posession. Then Walker atoned a bit by hitting a three which DID tie the game at 67. The C's played tough defense, and went up court with a shot at the lead. Vin Baker was clearly fouled in the act of shooting, but there was no call. Milwaukee made tracks fast and Cassell sank a deep two to give them the lead once more.
As the last couple of minutes wound
down, the Bucks continued to push the lead up, and the quarter ewnded with
a score of 78-71, favoring Milwaukee.
This is where, frankly, things fell apart. The quarter began as the Bucks piled on a scoring run, and nothing the C's did went right on offense--or for that matter, defensively. The lead was in double digits less than two minutes into the quarter. The Good Guys tried to keep up the defensive pressure, and there was a sputter or two on offense, but it just wasn't sufficient. Tony Delk hit an open three to make it 86-78 with just over 8 minutes to go, and tough defense gave Boston the ball again. Pierce was fouled--but it was a posession foul. The C's were one and done after the side out.
Ray Allen hit a three to signal the final assault on Boston, and the rout was on. Boston tried to mount one more run, but Eric williams got called for an offensive foul and that was just the last straw. The C's fought for rebounds, but their offense was just nonexistent at this point. Everything started clicking for the Bucks and every time the C's tried offense, either it missed, or an offensive foul was called.
About the only time Ray Allen was
stopped from scoring was when Tony Delk nearly took his shorts off as he
blew by. The game ended with a score of 102-85.
This was a hard-fought game for three quarters, then the C's offense blew up. Between the Buck's offense hitting extremely well to start, (& the C's never really getting them slowed down) and the fourth quarter collapse, it was easy to see where this went south.
It's especially hard, since the
Celtics really had a good chance to win this one. The Good guys had
four days to work at a remedy before hosting the New Jersey Nets.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Final|