Skip to main content

The Boston Celtics started fast and weathered a 43-point third quarter by the Milwaukee Bucks, their highest-scoring quarter this season. But the Celtics' late-game offense crumbled as the defending champions outscored them 19-4 in crunch time.

Here's a deeper dive into those topics and what else stood out from the Bucks' 117-113 win over the Celtics.

Boston's Performance on Both Ends in the First Frame

The Celtics got off to a hot start on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the Celtics made a conscious effort to make quick decisions, looking to attack off the catch and share the ball. The result was 35 points, ten assists on 15 made field goals, shooting 4/9 (44.4 percent) from beyond the arc, and producing 12 points in the paint and nine on second-chance opportunities.

Jaylen Brown led the way, knocking down his first five shots, translating to 12 points, and he finished the frame with 14 points, which at the time was a game-high, doing so on 6/7 shooting. The only negative for Brown was chipping one of his front teeth when he took an inadvertent elbow from Jayson Tatum.

Of course, Boston taking a 13-point lead into the second quarter wasn't just the product of how the team was playing offensively. The Celtics' defensive versatility allows them to switch most matchups; when they combine that with the level of energy and physicality they displayed in the first frame, it tends to lead to positive results, even against a great team like the Bucks. Milwaukee finished the opening quarter with just 22 points, shooting 10/24 (41.7 percent) from the field, including 1/7 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc.

Bucks Surge, Celtics Stay the Course

Neither team cracked thirty points in the second quarter, but a pair of Khris Middleton threes late in the frame cut Milwaukee's deficit to ten points. The second one prompted Ime Udoka to take a timeout, which helped the Celtics stay the course, responding with threes by Marcus Smart and Tatum, sandwiched between a Bobby Portis hook shot. It wasn't just the makes from long range but continuing with that conscious effort to make quick decisions, share the ball, and stay aggressive that helped Boston take a 15-point lead into the half.

The Inevitable Bucks Run

The Bucks' inevitable run to get back in the game came in the form of a 43-point offensive explosion in the third quarter. It's Milwaukee's highest-scoring quarter this season, and it got fueled by their big three, as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday combined for 31 of those points. Giannis, in particular, was an absolute force, bulldozing his way to the rim, where ten of his 17 points came. The other seven, which came at the free-throw line, also resulted from his aggressive play.

As a collective, the Bucks made 14/20 shots (70 percent), 5/7 threes (71.4 percent), took 14 free throws, converting 10 of them, and they generated 16 points in the paint. That reduced a Boston lead that grew as large as 19 points in the first half to four entering the final frame.

Celtics' Crunch-Time Offense Falls Flat

The Celtics played well on both ends for much of the fourth quarter. The Bucks went through a dry spell offensively, not scoring until the 8:04 mark, and Jabari Parker stepped up off the bench, generating six points to help Boston build its lead back to double digits.

Scroll to Continue


However, in the final five minutes, a.k.a. crunch time, the Celtics only made 1/9 field-goal attempts, and they got outscored 19-4. Boston consistently generated quality shots but couldn't get those looks to fall. Considering how many of those attempts missed off the front of the rim, perhaps it was a sign of fatigue for a team playing short-handed. 

Conversely, the Bucks repeatedly pushed the pace and didn't stop challenging the defense. Their approach led to eight points in the paint, five at the free-throw line, and seven on second-chance opportunities.

One of those second chances Milwaukee capitalized on came after Robert Williams blocked a Jrue Holiday layup. George Hill retrieved the ball and kicked it out to Wes Matthews for a three that put the Bucks up 114-113 with 30.3 seconds left and proved to be the game-winner.

While late-game struggles on offense are not a new problem, Boston can learn a lot from studying the contrast in how both teams played down the stretch.

Up Next

The Celtics have a road matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. Tip-off's at 8:00 EST. Inside The Celtics will have content related to the game coming out before, during, and after. And follow @BobbyKrivitsky on Twitter for updates and analysis from pregame to post.

Further Reading

What Stood Out in Sixers Win Over Celtics: The Former Steps Up While Latter Wilts Down the Stretch

Should the Celtics Trade for Buddy Hield?

Los Angeles Lakers Sign Isaiah Thomas

Jayson Tatum Makes a Major Announcement

Boston Celtics Sign C.J. Miles Via Hardship Exemption

The Latest On Dennis Schroder's Future with the Celtics