Sunday, December 1, 2013
From Gino to Giannis Time
By Chris Forsberg
One night you're dancing with Gino, the next night Giannis is dancing on you.
Coming off maybe the team's most complete effort of the 2013-14 season in Friday's dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics regressed to the mean Saturday night as the Milwaukee Bucks snapped an 11-game losing streak while posting their second victory over Boston in November (and the Bucks have only three wins overall) with a 92-85 triumph at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Celtics failed to defend the 3-point line, something they've done so well this season, and the Bucks knocked down 8 of 17 triples, sparked by a trio of 3-pointers by Brandon Knight (20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists). After finding success early inside, Boston fell in love with perimeter jumpers and struggled to convert its own 3-point attempts (21.1 percent). Milwaukee erased an 11-point deficit by dominating the second quarter, then pushed its own lead as high as 17 early in the fourth.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had his way with the Celtics on Saturday.
On this night, one sequence told the story. Boston owned an eight-point lead entering the second quarter and Giannis Antetokounmpo turned the ball over. Jordan Crawford streaked the other way for what should have been a fast-break layup, but Antetokounmpo hustled for the chase-down block. The Bucks broke out in the opposite direction and the Greek rookie, taken two spots after Kelly Olynyk at No. 15 for Milwaukee, sprinted down the middle of the floor before taking a pass at the free throw line and splitting three Celtics defenders while delivering a one-handed jam.
If the Bucks had sleepwalked through the first quarter, Antetokounmpo woke them up. The 6-foot-9 small forward played the entire second quarter while contributing 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and that highlight block as Milwaukee outscored Boston 28-14 and took control of the game.
Antetokounmpo finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists over 28 minutes. He practically out-contributed Boston's entire bench, which saw six players combine for 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. That included Gerald Wallace's latest night without a shot or point over 24½ minutes (he did have four assists and four rebounds).
Hey, these nights are going to happen with a team in transition. For every complete 48-minute effort, there's going to be at least one stinker to even things out.
Want a positive from Saturday's game? November is over. The Celtics said good riddance to a stretch that saw the team play 19 games over the first 31 days of the 2013-14 season. That included six back-to-backs, all of which closed on the road, and two stretches in which Boston played five games in seven nights in five different cities. You can make the case that Boston should feel fortunate to simply have won seven games.
But forgive Boston fans if they got a little bit ahead of themselves. The Celtics could do no wrong on Friday night against Cleveland and entered Saturday's game with a chance to tie the Toronto Raptors atop the Atlantic Division. Instead, the Bucks reminded Boston that things won't come easy very often this season.
The schedule downshifts tremendously in December. The Celtics are off the next two days -- only their second two-day break of the season -- which will afford them a practice day Monday before yet another tilt with Milwaukee on Tuesday night. Boston plays nine of its 12 games in December at TD Garden and, of the three road games, two are in New York.
There's a sense among some observers that Boston survived the month of November. Earlier this week, that sentiment was conveyed to Avery Bradley.
"Survived?!" Bradley said incredulously. "I wouldn’t use that word. I would say that it definitely made us feel good to know where we came from the first game of the month until the last game, we feel good about ourselves."
Bradley said despite the uneven sledding, he's convinced Boston has made strides during this hectic first month.
"The one thing I can say about this month is that we got better as a team," said Bradley. "We learned a lot about our team throughout this month. And we played a lot of games. Every single game, we had ups and downs, but in the end I feel like we continued to improve as a team and got a lot better."
The schedule made consistent improvement difficult. As Saturday proved, it's hard to know what to expect from one night to another.