Three Quarters, No Third Quarter: Boston Celtics 102, Milwaukee Bucks 96


Despite the best efforts of Ersan Ilyasova (25 points, 10 rebounds) and a banged-up Drew Gooden (23 points, 8 rebounds), the Bucks fell to the Boston Celtics, 102-96.

The culprit? Another poor third quarter.  One day after getting outscored by 11 in the third quarter by the lowly Wizards, the Bucks fritted away a halftime lead and got thumped by 14 in the third quarter of tonight’s game.

The Bucks mounted a furious comeback in the final two minutes, cutting a 13-point lead down to two with :24 seconds left.  The  11-0 run was spurred by back-to-back three-pointers by Brandon Jennings and a healthy dose of Ersan hustle.  But after failing to created a turnover on the inbounds play, the Bucks had no choice but to foul, and Kevin Garnett hit a pair of free throws to ice the game.

For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Garnett led the way.  Rondo notched a triple-double (15p/11r/10a) and thoroughly outplayed Brandon Jennings, especially in the second half.  Garnett matched Ilyasova’s stat line identically (25 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists).

MVP: Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden (tie)

Gooden did his damage in the first half, and Ersan did his in the second, but the Bucks simply should not lose when the two combine for 48 points.

Less than 24 hours after injuring his neck in a nasty fall against Washington, Gooden was a game-time decision to play against Boston.  He played aggressively and his jump shot showed no ill effects of the wrist injury that has hampered him in for the past two weeks.

Ilyasova hit a couple of jumpers in the first half, but in the second half, Ersan was all about the paint.  He had another fine game of finishing well at the rim.

LVP: Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino (tie)

While Jennings hit the two key shots during the comeback, he didn’t get any during the first 46 minutes of the game.  Zero.

Delfino was just as cold as Brandon.  He played with active hands, but he still gambles for steals too much and he was the culprit in the worst Milwaukee defensive play of the night.  He was guarding Keyon Dooling on the perimeter.  Keyon made an entry pass to Garnett in the low post.  While Carlos watched, Dooling cut to the hoop using Garnett’s handoff/screen for an unbelievably wide-open dunk.  Delfino’s positioning on the play was beyond awful.

The pair combined to shoot 5/25 FG on the night.  They deserve to share this one.

As a side note, if Mike Dunleavy is going to play 30 minutes — which, by definition, subjects his own team to 30 minutes of Mike Dunleavy defense — then he needs to get some of those outside looks being taken by these two.  Tonight, Mike only took a single three, although it was partly due to the Celtics’ defense.  Boston ran out to contest Mike’s threes, often forcing Dunleavy to fake, step in with one dribble, and put up a long two.

This should delight you: Larry Sanders

Sanders had a solid Larry Sanders game:  some defense, seven rebounds, a few tip-ins.  But in the second quarter, he had the perfect reaction to a typical Kevin Garnett head-game/stunt.

Headed to a timeout, Sanders and Garnett crossed paths on the court, but Sanders was looking elsewhere and Garnett made a point to walk straight through Sanders’ shoulder and jolt him.  Larry countered with a measured response.  He didn’t go nuts and start a fight.  He didn’t walk away as a flustered victim.  Instead, he reached out a long arm and turned Kevin’s shoulder toward him as if to say, “Hey, I’m here and I’m paying attention now. Knock it off.”

The refs got the call correct, too, doling out a double technical instead of solely penalizing Larry’s reaction.

This should confuse you: Brandon Jennings’ continued disappearing act in February

After shooting 44% from the field in December and January, Brandon Jennings shot 34% in February.

And it goes way beyond that.  It extends to defense and playmaking, too.  Something just looks off.  The too-often used “lethargy” and “detached” are about to turn into stronger adjectives.

Tweets of the Night:

@slowingtime:  Oh hey, they’re only losing by two. That’s nice.

@Bucksketball:  Ersan Ilyasova is pretty much an insurance company.

@AndrewMBogut:  I think Jimmy Johns should sponsor Bucks commentators Jim and John….

Final verdict: Lost Ground Can’t Always Be Recovered

Jeremy Lin sparked a great turnaround for the Knicks, and as a result, the playoff race for the Bucks will likely come down to a sprint with the Cavaliers and Celtics.  Both the Cavaliers and Bucks now sit 3.5 games behind Boston, and Milwaukee is starting to look more and more like a team worthy of the lottery pick they are about to receive.