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Sunday, July 22, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Bucks 88, Celtics 87

By Greg Payne

LAS VEGAS -- Rapid reaction following the Boston Celtics' 88-87 loss the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday:

HOW THE GAME WAS LOST: John Henson and Tobias Harris each scored 22 points to pace the Bucks, with Harris knocking down two pivotal free throws with 5.9 seconds left to seal the win for Milwaukee. Henson also chipped in nine boards, while Larry Sanders produced an 11-point, 15-rebound double-double to help propel the Bucks' effort. Dionte Christmas led the Celtics once again with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while rookie Jared Sullinger came through with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Jamar Smith added 16 points.

C'S REGROUP FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S TRADE: The Celtics looked fully rejuvenated after playing flat for the majority of Thursday's loss to the Kings, following the swift departures of E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams, who were traded in a package to the Rockets for Courtney Lee. Friday's day off, combined with having played a full game with a disheveled unit Thursday, seemed to be all the medicine Boston needed to get its team mojo back. Smith looked more comfortable running the point, while Christmas provided his usual stability as a do-it-all player. Craig Brackins continued his emergence, while Sullinger re-established himself as more of a focal point of the team's offense. The bench and coaching staff were as animated as ever, and the Celtics took advantage of a balanced second-half offensive attack to try to secure the win before falling in the final seconds.

C'S FALL IN FOURTH: Playing their first real wire-to-wire game since arriving in Las Vegas, the Celtics went with Sullinger, Brackins, Christmas, Smith and Fab Melo for most of the final 6 minutes to try to close out the Bucks. The two teams traded baskets and free throws for the majority of the time, with Sullinger and Henson taking center stage around the 4-minute mark. Sullinger scored on a right-baseline drive, Henson followed with a basket of his own, and Sullinger converted two free throws shortly after. Christmas came through with six straight points for Boston, and Smith buried a huge 3-pointer from the right wing with a minute to play, putting Boston up 1. But with the C's still up 1, Christmas couldn't get a right-side layup to fall, despite drawing considerable contact, and Harris sank his two free throws just seconds later. The C's looked to Sullinger for the last shot, but his dribble-drive and running hook found the back iron and bounced out.

BRACKINS STRONG AGAIN: For the second consecutive game, Brackins came through with a strong effort for the Celtics, showing off the versatility that led to a 15-point outing -- his second straight night hitting double figures in points. The 6-foot-10 forward buried three 3-pointers, but also scored on a putback off of an offensive rebound and came through with a thunderous, right-handed dunk on the right block. Despite playing minimal minutes earlier in the week, Brackins has taken full advantage of the extra time available since Johnson and Williams left the team.

STUTZ DEBUTS: Garrett Stutz, a 7-footer out of Wichita State, joined the Celtics' summer league roster due to the departures of Johnson and Williams. It was a largely uneventful premiere for Stutz, who logged a mere 3:09 of floor time, going 0-for-1 from the field with a rebound.