The Celtics’ third quarter was just too much for the Bucks to overcome.
Milwaukee put up a fight with a quality fourth-quarter comeback attempt, but ultimately fell short in Boston's 117-113 win. The Celtics’ strong shooting performance out of halftime proved to be the difference in Thursday night's clash.
The hot shooting was a welcome surprise for a Boston squad that entered the game second-to-last in the league in scoring, averaging 102.4 points a night. The Celtics were No. 28 in field-goal percentage at 41.8% and No. 24 in three-point percentage at 32.8%.
But for at least one night, the Celtics had answers from deep.
Sparked by Kyrie Irving’s 6-for-12 outing from behind the arc, Boston set a franchise record with 24 triples. Despite the team’s best efforts to ice the game from deep in the closing moments as Milwaukee clawed back, the Celtics fell one triple shy of tying the NBA record for threes in a game.
The 38-point third quarter that gave Boston a 15-point cushion was catalyzed by eight three-pointers, including a pair from Marcus Morris. Coming into the night, Morris was connecting on 48.4% of his attempts from three, and Thursday he raissed that number even further.
The stretch big has proved vital for Boston’s offense early in the season, whether as a catch-and-shoot guy on the perimeter, or as a potential isolation option from the mid-range. He made the game-clinching basket in Oklahoma City last week, and he was 5-for-8 from distance Thursday.
Despite the success, the Celtics still showed their flaws in the win. After the Bucks cut Boston’s lead to two at 113-111, the Celtics missed four straight threes to leave the door open.
The Bulls and Magic are the only other teams besides the Celtics who have yet to hit 120 points in a game this season. Boston’s 117 on Thursday was enough for the victory, but going forward, that can’t be all they can get on a night when they have an offensive explosion.
For comparison, when the Cavaliers set the record for most threes at 25 in 2017, they scored 135. And the Warriors put up 149 when they had 24 threes earlier this week in Chicago.
Still, improvement is something to be happy about.
Thursday’s shooting likely won’t be replicated by Boston any time soon, but it was a sign of what can happen if Brad Stevens can get this squad clicking on that end the way so many expected it would.
The defense can only take this team so far, especially when it looks like the rest of the league is in the middle of a scoring renaissance.
For one night though, the Celtics’ shooting was too much too handle. If this is something we can get used to, then this offense is going to start scaring opponents.
If the shooting was only here for a one-night fling, then it was an example of Boston doing just enough to find a way to make a good team a loser for a night. We should all be used to that formula already.