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Fade Away: Bucks 91, Celtics 88

When Jason Terry’s long three ball kicked right off the iron, the Celtics completed a night-long fade to a loss and a 9-8 record.

Early on, it looked like we might be in for a repeat of the Portland win from last night. Boston disrupted Milwaukee’s early offense, stripped the ball and raced out to a 17-0 first quarter lead. They took Q1 27-11 but proceeded to lose the next three. Brandon Jennings delivered the final blow with a triple from the top of the arc on the Bucks’ last possession of the game.

There were positives — Jeff Green put together a second consecutive strong game with 18 points (on 8-11 shooting) and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes and Courtney Lee was again frisky with 13 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists — but Boston didn’t get enough offense from their frontcourt. Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins finished a combined 3-12.

We’ll have full grades tomorrow.

  • et2

    Tough loss. Celtics played hard. But in games like this, Garnett is really tough to watch. The guy is no doubt a champion and if he's healthy, he'll bring everything he has during the playoffs. When he has his legs underneath him, he plays exceptionally well. But he can't sustain it as long as he used to. Garnett's decline has been more pronounced than Duncan's and Kobe's. Also, I just don't understand Ainges' offseason moves. They spent so much money loading up the backcourt with solid role players, when their frontline was their achilles heal last year. How many times do you watch the Celtics play championship defense for 22 seconds, force a miss, then give up an easy rebound to a younger, more athletic big The West may have the teams with the more talented frontlines, but the Celtics will not go far in the playoffs rebounding as bad as they do. I just hope they can pick up a player in free agency or through a trade – Kenyon Martin? Gortat? What's even more disturbing is that the Heat play their games in cruise control, and they just keep winning. It's a long season, but the celts are tough to watch right now.

    • Phil

      The Celtics tailored their team around beating the Heat, that's basically the full explanation for the roster construction. In the playoffs. the Heat are going to have a Bosh/Lebron/Battier front court for most of the game. They likely cost themselves some losses in the regular season to bigger teams, but the focus has always been on Miami.

      Also, Garnett was far from the problem. He missed some jumpers late, but the team continues to depend on him for everything. His decline is far from pronounced, he just can't put up 20/10 anymore. He still does everything else very well.

      • et2

        I understand the changes were made to match up with the Heat. But the Heat are thin up front. The likes of Courtney Lee, Pierce, etc. are not going to be able to stop Lebron. It's nice to have some depth, but they don't need all of bradley, lee, pierce, terry, barbosa to beat the Heat. They need some bulk and height that can exploit the Heat front court and match up against the rest of the Eastern Conference. Also, by not having another solid center/pf, all the interior pressure is on Garnett. It's no wonder that the defense drops off so much once he's on the bench. Adding to the problem is the fact that nearly every big that the Celtics do get shoots an outside shot and therefore is in poor position to rebound. Also, on nights like this, Garnett was a big part of the problem. Your star is out, and it's time to step up. Instead he clanks 3-4 shots in the fourth, while Duncan goes for 27 and 15.

        • Phil

          Completely disagree that average big men is the way to counter the Heat. It's not like the Celtics were gonna go out and get Dwight Howard in the offseason. If you try and 'exploit' Lebron with a normal big guy, Lebron will shut him down on defense and blow by him every time on offense. The Celtics did the right thing as far as matching up with Miami, but it hinges on whether or not Green helps, or is a train wreck. That does leave them vulnerable to the rest of the East (Brooklyn seems like the prime example of a team that will give them problems,) but they didn't have a chance against Miami without making the moves that they did, and they will have to go through Miami.

          KG didn't step up like he had to tonight, but he still played well. Given what he has around him in the front court, it's hard for me to put too much blame on him. I think we have to start factoring in that he can't raise his game at will in December into our expectations. He was huge in the win against Orlando (I think,) last week, but couldn't replicate it tonight. It's easy to forget that he was a different player in the postseason last year, so there's still hope that he's hiding an extra level, I just wouldn't expect it until the Cs absolutely need it.

        • I bleed green

          et2. Have to completely agree with you on the offseason moves. But not on Garnett. Milwaukee won the game when they figured out to just keep pounding away inside. Udoh and Sanders looked like all-stars. It was just sad.

          Focusing on retooling to face the Heat with backcourt depth was a poor choice. Miami is small and the best way to beat a small team is with size. Give us back Perk last season and Miami loses that series. And even if we do beat Miami with this squad, what then? The real goal is a title and in the finals you have to face a big frontcourt such as Memphis, SA, and even OKC. How can this team possibly compete? Sadly the approach is not costing them just some losses. They risk being an 8th seed and facing the Heat in the first round or even possibly missing the playoffs altogether. I trust the team will get better but team chemistry and grit doesn't overcome a lack of size.

          And personally I don't see comparing Garnett to Duncan as fair. Duncan doesn't really expend much energy on D (if any) and has one of the most efficient offensive games around. He doesn't go full throttle like KG and have to expend so much energy on both sides of the floor. He's also got a bunch of bigs to help out on the boards. AND he gets days off to just rest…or at least he did until the latest fine. KG would have a longer career if he knew how to take it easy…but then he wouldn't be KG.

          • Phil

            I'd bring up the same big guy problem with Miami here. The Heat have lost twice this year because they couldn't match size; against Memphis, and against the Clippers. Where were the Celtics gonna go to get someone to replicate a Gasol/Randolph or Jordan/Griffin frontcourt? The best they could've done is probably someone like Robin Lopez instead of Courtney Lee. I really don't see how that moves the needle at all. There was no one out there.

          • et2

            Phil – You don't get a big to defend Lebron one on one. You get a big to force the Heat to change their lineup. The heat thrive because they let Wade and Lebron drive and kick to spot up shooters. Put a big in there and they won't have Battier playing the 3/4 and Lebron playing 4/5 and Bosh playing the 5. If the heat don't change their lineup, they'll give up rebounds as much as the Celtics do now. You also get a big to get second chances against an excellent Heat defense.

            And I don't blame Garnett for the loss. But his effectiveness is neutralized when he is the only capable defender in the paint and when guards routinely blow past our perimeter defense. And he can't grab rebounds because he's going for the block. So he's left hoisting 17-20 foot jump shots on offense and expending all of his energy on defense. There was and still is plenty of solid front court players to get.

            I Bleed Green – I agree with you. Garnett was huge in the playoffs and if he's healthy, he'll do it again. But he needs help in the paint and the celtics' management didn't provide that to him.

          • Phil

            What you say might work in theory, but there's no practical application of it. Memphis and LAC didn't stop the Heat from playing their small game, they just beat them while they did it. The biggest front court in the league is the Howard/Gasol one for the Lakers, but I guarantee that the Heat will still play small against it. It's not something that the Heat go to anymore, it's who they are.

            Just look at tonight; the Heat beat the Nets by 13 in a game where Lebron was human and Bosh sucked. The Celtics weren't going to get a bigger team than Brooklyn. Conversely, the worst loss of the year for the Heat was against the Carmelo at the 4 Knicks. You can beat the Heat going small, you can't beat them going big unless you have elite bigs. Elite bigs don't come available that often, and never without cap space/a whiny one wanting to play there. Bigs in the Kendrick Perkins class don't help; they killed him in OKC in the finals.

          • et2

            Phil – You don't get a big to defend Lebron one on one. You get a big to force the Heat to change their lineup. The heat thrive because they let Wade and Lebron drive and kick to spot up shooters. Put a big in there and they won't have Battier playing the 3/4 and Lebron playing 4/5 and Bosh playing the 5. If the heat don't change their lineup, they'll give up rebounds as much as the Celtics do now. You also get a big to get second chances against an excellent Heat defense.

          • Phil

            The Heat have held up all year without getting abused like you're saying. They held up all postseason too, including against Roy Hibbert and the Perk/Ibaka line (they destroyed both, actually.) Lebron is too good of a rebounder to get abused on the boards, he rebounds like a power forward, and Battier and Wade are great rebounders, so going small doesn't weaken their rebounding.

            Even if I did agree with your premise, I'd still like to know who you wanted the Cs to target. They didn't have cap space to offer the max to someone like BLopez or Hibbert, and they didn't have the assets to get Howard. It's bargain shopping or nothing.

          • et2

            How in the world do you expect the Heat to play small against the Lakers? Is Lebron going to guard Howard or Gasol? They will have to play Anthony.

            And as for the Nets, they may have the pieces, but their talent and experience doesn't match up to the Celtics. They lost because Williams shot 3-12 (or whatever it was), and Joe Johnson didn't play up to par. Add a solid powerforward or center to play along side Garnett and it changes the dynamic of the celtics. A strong perimeter defense backed up by a strong interior D.

            There isn't a lot of examples of the Heat losing to a big frontcourt because the Heat haven't been together for long and certainly haven't faced too many 7 game series against a superior frontcourt. But when you consider the celtics woes, there's plenty of examples of the Celtics losing because of rebounding and interior depth (Lakers Game 7).

          • Phil

            Lebron can guard Gasol for stretches. It's not ideal, but it's also probably a matchup that they'll face twice this year. I think you're underrating just how good Lebron is at defending 4s. There isn't a 4 alive who can get around him, and it takes Zach Randolph level strength to push him around. Lebron' also 6'9 and just as heavy as most 4s.

            What I want to know is how does a Howard/Gasol line guard Bosh/Lebron. My guess is not very well.

            It's two different arguments; should the Cs have gone bigger in the offseason, and should the Cs have gone big to beat Miami. I would argue yes on the first given my waning opinion of Bass, but I'm vehemently against the second point. There was no big guy for the Cs to get that Miami wouldn't destroy.

          • et2

            And Bosh will guard Howard? This is the potential Finals matchup. Not just twice a year. Actually I think the Lakers matchup fairly well with the Heat. World piece on Lebron, Kobe on Wade, Gasol/Howard v. Bosh/Battier/Allen.

          • Phil

            World Peace on Lebron means Gasol has to guard a 3pt shooter. That's a disaster waiting to happen. And there's also no way in hell that Artest could guard Lebron. At this point in his career, Artest is a slow, savvy defender who depends on his strength. Lebron is much stronger than Artest, and he's faster than Artest ever was.

            The Lakers may be able to score, but they could never guard that Heat lineup. That's what makes it an intriguing matchup. You would probably have to double down on Howard if you're guarding him with Bosh, and do the Lakers have the 3pt shooters to make you pay? Also, does LAL have the constitution to keep Kobe spotted up in the corner waiting while Howard handles the offense like in Orlando? I really don't see it in LA's favor, especially once Kobe starts jacking shots.

          • et2

            Also, this isn't the difference between small and big. This is the difference between having 5-6 small forwards/guards v. 3 guards/small forwards and one more center/power forward.

          • Phil

            The whole point about the Heat is that they don't have positions. They have one big in Bosh, one Lebron, one elite slasher and 6 or 7 interchangeable 3pt shooters.

            If you guard that with a traditional 5/4/3/2/1, you're 4 is probably gonna get beaten by Lebron. It's possible to win like that, but you better have a great 4 and 5. The Lakers fit that mold, though I'd argue that Memphis and LAC match up better. My whole argument is that the better way to match up is like the Knicks have done. 5/3/3/2/1, with an elite 3 playing the 4. The Knicks would have to be on fire from 3 to win, but the Thunder might not have to be. The Thunder just have to nail Perk to the bench.

          • I bleed green

            et2. Agree with you on there not being a lot of examples of the Heat losing to a big frontcourt. They are spared it for the most part since all the biggest teams (though maybe Brooklyn counts as big now) are in the West.

            They Heat really lucked out in last years run in my opinion . Thanks to D-Rose's injury they were spared a matchup with the Bulls who are a bigger and better defensive team. And I would have loved to see them face San Antonio instead of OKC. I think they really would have struggled to defend both Parker and Duncan, and even role guys like Splitter. I mean SA rested 4 of their stars and STILL nearly beat Miami in their matchup.

            It's really a pointless to debate Miami's success against size at this time in the season. You don't really know how teams match up until they have to play a series. A regular season one-game sample has too many variables.

            And LA sucks. I wouldn't even put them in the conversation. With Howards glaring free throw shooting flaw and absolutely no bench they won't ever get to see Miami in a series. It's really Memphis, OKC, SA or maybe the Clips have an outside chance.

          • I bleed green

            It's not about stopping their small game. It's about controlling the boards. Miami's entire offence is based on pushing the tempo and getting Wade and LeBron out in transition where they can collapse the D and kick to shooters or score. They're terrible against a zone, and struggle in the half court against size. Yes, they're the most talented team in the league so they will always have a chance to win. But they have glaring weaknessess too. You don't need Elite bigs to exploit them. You need to be able to defend the 3, clog the lanes, and get defensive rebounds to limit them to one shot and out.

            The Nets game isn't a fair comparison. First, the Heat have played the easiest schedule (in terms of days off) of anybody in the league. It's a joke really. They've routintely had days (if not several) off before each big matchup, which was the whole point of Popovich-gate. Also, Brook Lopez sat out – their leading scorer and best big. And they still had a huge lead throughout most of the game. I watched it, and the Heat came back because of favorable whistles which got Brookly in foul trouble and by exploiting Brooklyn's major flaw which is a lack of reliable scorers. They don't have any. Johnson is streaky and D-Will's shot has been off all season.

            Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche where available and even Kenyon Martin (still is). Evans is a flopping goon, but he has the highest RPM in the league and Blatche is giving solid production. It's not about needing a star big. It's about guys willing to live in the paint, fight for possions, and wear the opposing team down with physical play and most of all finish around the rim. If you can't rebound…you can't win and the ability to get easy baskets is always the key to close games. We couldn't even do that against Milwaukee.

            Miami can play small because the overcome their size with incredible talent and skill. The real problem is our frontcourt is undersized AND underskilled. KG needs at least one other reliable interior defender, and please, somebody who can finish around the rim!

          • et2

            I bleed Green – You're spot on. Chicago, with a healthy Rose, would have given the Heat everything they could handle. The Heat's strategy of playing 5"position-less" players is another way of saying that they play small with versatile sf/pf/guards. Instead of "matching" the heat backcourt with the likes of Lee, Green and co. the Celtics should have dictated the Heat's hand by getting one, decent, rebounding, big and one less guard in our already saturated backcourt. It's as simple as that.

          • Phil

            I'm trying to not pointlessly prolong this discussion, but I still don't understand how you can say 'it's as simple as that.' If you could hypothetically trade Lee for any non-Heat player (Howard would be my guess,) I still don't see any way it dictates anything about the Heat. They dictate what you do, and no one's good enough to turn that around on them.

            The bigger question is this; who exactly were the Cs going to get in a realistic scenario for this dictation that you're recommending? By the time they picked up Lee in a sign and trade, they had no cap room, and no mid level exception. They got the best big guy they could for the minimum (Darko, eesh,) and they got the best player they could for the JJJ/Etwaun/flotsam package in Lee. Who was giving up a capable big for that?

            The more palatable solution would probably be passing up Terry and using the MLE on a big, but you're still only getting a Robin Lopez in that scenario, and now you have no one to (ideally) replicate Ray's production. Finding good bigs is the hardest thing to do in the NBA, the Cs didn't not add one because they didn't want to. Chris Kaman got 8 million dollars! Kwame Brown got 3 million, and I'd take Darko over him on some days.

          • et2

            Don't know what else to say other than we'll have to agree to disagree. With respect to your premise that the Heat dictate what you do, and "no one's good enough to turn that around on them," I say then why are we even having this discussion? There's no futility in considering ways the Celts can improve their chances of beating the Heat. Also, as I've alluded to before, I don't think this is the difference between small ball v. a big front line. I just think the Celtics overreacted to the Heat by loading up on guards and small forwards. As you suggest, there are two reasons for this: 1) to match up to the Heat and 2) to fit Rondo's style of play.

            My thinking is that because Lebron and Co. are so good at what they do – transition, pressure defense in the perimeter, kick and drive – the Celtics shouldn't spent all of their resources containing or limiting their strength. Instead, they should have balanced their acquisitions by attacking the Heat's weakness, while concurrently strengthening their own interior/rebounding – a deficiency that's plagued them for several years.

            As for playing with Rondo, it's nice to see the Celtics scoring more, which I think is a direct result of having more athletic guards/forwards that can run with Rondo. But that could have been achieved with one or two less perimeter players.

            Finally, I don't recall what free agents were available during the off-season; nor do i know what trades could have been made. I don't think paying Chris Kaman 8 million dollars would have been smart. But picking up a player like Kenyon Martin would be invaluable. Finding a way to trade for Gortat may not cure all ills, but it would help. Bringing up Fab Melo and allowing him to develop his game with the big boys would be an option. Trading Jeff Green or not signing him in the first place would be better than the status quo. Hindsight is of course, 20-20. But all I know is that it is painful to watch the celtics get dominated on a nightly basis on the boards. It was painful to watch them lose Game 7 to the Lakers because of rebounding. It's painful watching this team against the Bulls' frontline, who by the way will have Rose back in time for the playoffs. And most importantly, it's painful watching Garnett expend all his energy on the defensive end, but with diminishing returns because he is the last and only line of defense after our porous perimeter.

            The root of the celtics problem is the Perkins trade. Granted Perk is a shell of his former self with the Thunder. But so is Green. I feel like once that trade was made, the management made a philosophical decision to go small to adapt to Rondo's game. I don't think that style of play wins games in the playoffs, unless you have Wade and Lebron as your backcourt.

          • et2

            The Heat will struggle against the Lakers or Grizzlies. But their advantage in all other aspects of the game is so high that it will be irrelevant. And I'm quite sure that once Bradley comes back, having a Robin Lopez will be more valuable than a Courtney Lee, especially with our saturated backcourt.

          • Phil

            That I do agree with. There was a piece on potential trades on ESPN Insider today, and one was Lee and a first for RLopez. I'd do that deal in a heartbeat (though I don't see why NOLA would,) I just don't see how it helps against Miami. I think we're getting closer and closer to learning that Bass can't be the starting 4 on a team without elite rebounders abounding.

          • et2

            I agree. he'll be a great energy player coming off the bench.

  • OKCeltic

    Wow. What a disappointment after the 17-0 start. Tough to get over this one.

    • someguyinsac

      It is disappointing and will be kind of tough to get over. I thought they would give up some of that lead, but I figured they would win the start they had.

  • Phil

    I hate to say it, but this team just isn't that good right now. As the blurb appropriately points out, the game was lost because Sully, Bass and Wilcox gave you nothing. This is on a night when Jason Terry dished for 12 assists, Jeff Green had his best game of the year, and Courtney Lee had his best offensive game. When you get that kind of across the board production and still lose (with a 16 point lead 12 minutes in no less,) it means you have serious problems. If this team needs above average performances from every average to bad player on the team, they may as well just slot themselves into a 6 seed right now. There was no Rondo tonight, and that's important, but the overall point still stands. (get well soon too, Avery!)

    Pierce was really disappointing tonight. I haven't looked at the final numbers, and he did finish strong in the 4th, but not only did he get in a pissing match with Marquis Daniels for the first three, but he actually lost! I'm starting to think (read; hope) that he's nursing some kind of injury, because if he's this slowed this early in the season, we've got a problem. The bigs beside KG were terrible. They did alright on rebounding, but they also did nothing positive offensively or defensively. After about a week I started softening on the Bass contract after originally not liking it… well I'm about a game away from going back to hating it.

    On the positive side, very good game for Green. This was the first time all year where I actually wanted to see Pierce sit and Green play. The Terry/Lee backcourt also played well together, which bodes well for the future when Rondo/Bradley start and the former comes off the bench.

    In the end, the regular season doesn't really matter, I'm just looking for some reason to believe that this team has a championship ceiling. They've shown me no reason to believe so far.

    • Josh_5

      Completely agree with Phil here. This current Celtics squad just isn't that good. I know us C's fans are accustomed to winning and championship contention, but this team just doesn't have the frontcourt to compete this year. When a 36 yr old KG is your best and only front court option, you have problems. Until this team solves the paint/rebounding issue, expect a 6 seed and 2nd round loss. Not sure how much longer we can keep looking at this team through rose colored glasses.

  • someguyinsac

    Nothing feels better than to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, does it?


    there is no playoff this year for the boston
    forget about it

  • Kafel

    Bad loss for Celtics… Tell me why Terry went to Daniels on that last play on defense instead of staying with Jennings? I would prefer open 3 attempt by Daniels over Jennings every single time…

  • CG12

    Get used to it, people. The C's backcourt is going to come through in most games. When they count on getting something from their front court is when games like the latest Nets and Bucks games will happen. As currently composed, the C's are going to get pounded inside some nights. Not every night, but there will be nights.

  • NZNICK33

    Its just one game…

    • Phil

      The Celtics are 9-8 with a number of worrying losses. They were blown out by Detroit, looked helpless against the Spurs, lost convincingly to teams like Milwaukee (home opener) and Philly. It's not one game.

      • MJohnnyboy

        -The Milwaukee and Philly losses came in early when the Celtics did not have a good grasp of how to play together. That was around the same time the Celtics were struggling to beat the Wizards.
        -The Pistons loss was their 5th game in 7 days. My money's on they were pretty tired.
        -They beat one of the best teams in the league just last week. I don't think it was a fluke they simply outplayed the Thunder.

        Losses like these happened last year. The season is 82 games not 17. You don't like what you see, then don't watch.

        • Phil

          In what world does pointing out (rather evident) negatives equate with not being a fan or not wanting to watch?

          Making excuses is something that bad teams do, especially when they start to pile up. You can make excuses for every loss, you can also make equally as valid excuses for the other sides. The whole attitude that the games that the Cs play well in aren't a fluke, yet the losses are is just complete fan BS. Losses will happen in an 82 game season, but the good teams have a few all year. The Cs are getting near double digits in December. I'd excuse a few, but not 8.

  • bert

    Pierce must lead the league in off-foot dribbles, no?

  • Morpheus

    Cs need frontcourt help, Danny. Wake the F up.

  • ghoulbuns

    Lee for Robin Lopez is a horrid idea. Being from Phoenix Ive had the displeasure of watching Robins stocky awkward frame for years. His defense is shit he cant run the court and hes an inconsistent scorer. C’s back court is one of the deepest in the league, capable of running circles around D Wade and Ray Allen, whom were sure to meet in the playoffs. To blow it up now is foolhardy. Have patience you whiny bastards. This team will gel and go far.

  • Tos

    Yeah, I don’t want Robin Lopez. He’s just not good at anything a big should be good at. He won’t solve any of our problem.

    Now I see a lot of potential with guys like JSmoove, millsap, gortat, he’ll even tyrus Thomas.