Kevin Garnett had a season high 25 points and Rajon Rondo scored his third triple-double of the season, a league high, as Boston used a 25-6 third quarter run to thrust past the Milwaukee Bucks and win 102-96 at home Wednesday night.
Milwaukee got off to an excellent start, using some solid shooting, good passing and a 10-point Drew Gooden second quarter to get the Bucks a nine-point lead with 48 seconds left in the first half. Milwaukee's fortunes changed when Larry Sanders hopped in the lane in transition, strangely travelling and therefore turning over the Bucks' chances of making the lead double digits.
Boston took advantage of Milwaukee's sudden generosity by scoring on a Rondo layup with 8.5 seconds left, then recovering a Carlos Delfino fumble and cashing in with a last second Keyon Dooling three. A lead that looked to be stretched to 11 had now become just four in a matter of nine seconds, giving the Celtics momentum heading into the second half.
In the third quarter, the Bucks cooled off and the Celtics used that late-half momentum to register a 27-13 quarter and take a double digit lead of their own.
The Celtics were hot, despite the misfiring of Paul Pierce, who struggled the whole night for Boston. Pierce accounted for seven of the quarter's 11 missed shots for Boston, leaving the rest of the team a stout 12-for-16 in the pivotal frame. Brandon Bass used his size and quickness to score eight and Garnett and Chris Wilcox combined for 10 points as the Celtics moved inside to take control of the game.
Boston pushed its lead to as many as 17 points during the final quarter of action, but the Bucks slowly crept back into the game and shocked the Boston crowd by outscoring the home team 23-8 down the stretch. Ersan Ilyasova, who tied Garnett with a game-high 25 points, promptly scored eight points upon reentering the game to help lead the comeback.
It was still a cozy 11-point lead with 91 seconds left when Brandon Jennings, held scoreless to this point in the game, finally knocked down a three-pointer. After a Rondo turnover, Jennings duplicated the feat, bringing the lead down to five in just 12 game seconds.
Boston was fully into prevent offense mode, dribbling the shot clock down and settling for rushed shots rather than working inside-out as had worked earlier. Ilyasova took advantage, scoring three more points in two possessions to cut the Celtics' advantage to only two points.
Garnett took care of business with four made free throws down the stretch and the Milwaukee magic wore off as they couldn't convert either the quick two- or a three-point attempt and Boston held on for the win.
All of Boston's starters scored in double digits, including Pierce, who finished with 10 points. Rondo's third triple-double of the season, which represents a third of the league's total in that category, included 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Wilcox was super strong off the bench, collecting six offensive rebounds to build a total of 13 rebounds overall in his 26 minutes. Those offensive rebounds led to Boston's largest total for the season, 18.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog sums the game up as such:
The Celtics actually hit the boards and dominated the paint tonight. The 2nd quarter was largely forgettable but some big runs in the 3rd quarter had the team up by double digits and thinking blowout. They obviously took their collective foot off the pedal and let the Bucks within sniffing distance of stealing one.
Thankfully they just ran out of time and the C's hit their free throws and that was all she wrote. But it hints at the over-arching issue of focus and discipline for this team. As Tommy succinctly put it "this is all just stupidity as far as I'm concerned." Oh well, a win is a win I guess.
For Milwaukee's point of view, check out Brew Hoop.