For C's, more good than bad and ugly
November, 11, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Gary Dineen/Getty ImagesJeff Green's fourth-quarter outburst helped the Celtics top the Bucks on Saturday.The Boston Celtics are not looking for style points as they iron out the wrinkles here at the start of the 2012-13 season. Saturday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks -- a game Boston desperately needed even this early in the campaign -- won't be Boston's prettiest effort of the year, but a win is a win for a squad struggling out of the gates. Back at .500 with a 3-3 mark, the Celtics can pluck more positives than negatives from this one, not the least of which was simply going on the road against a team playing inspired ball and winning on the second night of a back-to-back.
"It was a good win because it was a hard win," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "I mean, Milwaukee, they play hard and they're playing well. I thought we were searching in the first half for the right group. We went small, which I thought was huge for us. I thought we found an offensive set for the second unit, where they could be comfortable in. So, this season, it's a long season. We've just got to keep finding ourselves and finding what works for us."
A closer look at the good, bad and ugly from Boston's 96-92 triumph at the Bradley Center:
GREEN UNLOCKED: Through three quarters, it looked like more of the same for Jeff Green and his frustration-filled start to the season. But Green put together a spectacular final frame with strong play at both ends of the court and it might be enough to unlock him moving forward.
Green had more turnovers (3) than rebounds (2) and had missed all four shots he had taken entering the fourth quarter. But he turned in an inspired nine minutes in the final frame, producing three aggressive drives to the basket for layups while scoring eight of his 12 points overall.
It was a hustle play on the defensive end that highlighted Green's night. Paul Piece misfired on a 3-pointer in a one-possession game with less than six minutes to go and the Bucks attacked in transition. Mike Dunleavy caught a long feed while streaking to the basket from the right side, but Green raced back and delivered a stellar left-handed, chase-down swat to prevent what should have been a game-tying layup.
Green later capped his night by forcing a key turnover by Ersan Ilyasova near the Milwaukee basket with eight seconds to play in a two-point game. Rivers liked what he saw on the floor.
"I think we forget that Jeff sat out a whole year last year, and just because he played well in preseason, I think people -- it's going to take him time," Rivers said. "It's going to take him time to get comfortable. When he plays like that we're a better team."
Green's final stat line: 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting with three rebounds, two blocks and three turnovers. The only negative The Celtics were still minus-1 with him on the floor, but that was more indicative of the second unit's first-half struggles.
INTERIOR DEFENSE TIGHTENS UP: The Bucks posted 10 first-quarter field goals (on 14 attempts) within 5 feet of the hoop and Samuel Dalembert basically held a dunk party in front of (and on top of) Boston's defense. The Celtics cleaned up their interior woes on the fly, limiting Milwaukee to 14-of-29 shooting from inside 5 feet the rest of the way. Keep in mind that the Celtics held opponents to 55.8 percent shooting inside of 5 feet last season (third best in league), but this season that number had skyrocketed to 63.7 percent (third worst in the league entering Saturday's game).
PIERCE, PROFESSIONAL SCORER: Green's outburst might have been an even bigger deal if not for the exploits of Pierce and Milwaukee's Monta Ellis. The two players got into a bit of a shooting contest midway through the final frame with Ellis (8) and Pierce (7) combining to score 15 points over a two-minute span (it wasn't just the shots they hit, but everything seemed to be a swish). After trading triples -- Ellis' 3-pointer had Milwaukee out front by a point with 3:54 to go -- Pierce finally missed a 3-pointer of his own to end the one-on-one battle. Pierce finished with 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but it was nine rebounds that stood out most in this box score.
PLENTY TO WORK ON: The Celtics hope this is the sort of win that they can springboard off of, but it wasn't all sunshine and puppy dogs on Saturday. Boston's missed free throws -- an issue in Friday's loss to Philadelphia -- allowed the Bucks a couple opportunities in the closing moments to steal the game. Courtney Lee, shifted to a bench role given his own struggles to start his tenure in Boston, was scoreless more than 28 minutes off the bench. Lee missed all three shots he took and his stat line featured just one rebound and one assist. Green's emergence might leave Lee in a greater spotlight moving forward. The Celtics are still trying to figure out (1) How to sustain their defensive intensity/communication when Garnett goes to the bench and (2) how to maintain their offensive continuity/production when Rondo visits the pine. As Rivers noted after Saturday's game, "We're really struggling when Rondo goes off the floor. We don't have an offense." Boston is still looking for ways to generate offense without a pure backup point guard on the floor. Entering the fourth quarter, all Boston bench players not named Chris Wilcox (3-for-5, 6 points) were a combined 0-for-10 with six points. The Celtics need more offense -- and more consistency -- from that reserve group.