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9.30.2008

Bucks Dump C's

4th Quarter Drout Sinks Celts
Green Falls to 1-1

1981-82 Boston Celtics

It was not a night of disappointment for any Celtic follower (and that includes Bill Fitch), unless he or she thought the team was going 82-0 this season. And it certainly should not have been a viewing disappointment to any Celtic partisan who is a basketball fan first.

The Milwaukee Bucks just played superb basketball. They played to their strengths in chalkboard fashion, and they hustled unrelentingly, the result being a convincing 119-103 triumph over the Celtics before a sellout crowd of 11,052 (the 25th straight bang-out here) at the Milwaukee Arena.

A gruesome 0-14 scoring spell at the outset of the fourth period finished off the Celtics, who had done a nice job of running and defending during a third-period surge that had rescued them from a 14-point (72-58) deficit and brought them within five on three occasions, the last one being 85-80 at third period's end.

But so poised and thoughtful were the Bucks on this occasion that even had Boston not been quite so wretched in the fourth period, victory would have been denied the Celtics, anyway.

The prime architects of this satisfying Milwaukee triumph were Brian Winters and Sidney Moncrief. The former is, without question, one of the great pure shooters of all-time, and his 13-for-17 display certainly didn't shock the Celtics. The latter is a remarkable athlete, a 6-foot-4 swingman whose speed and reflexes are matched only by his dedication. He destroyed the Celtics by keeping the ball away from Larry Bird (15 points) on one end and tormenting them with 29 points and 12 assists at the other. He's got to be on the All-something Team, if only the All Fun-To-Watch Club.

Milwaukee never trailed after an opening fast-break trailer layup by Bob Lanier, who must have set 742 picks in his 16 minutes of action. The game was tied five times through 14-all, but the tempo and feel clearly belonged to Milwaukee, which broke the 14-apiece deadlock with an 8-2 run and would lead by such checkpoint margins as eight (30-22), 10 (54-44) and the aforementioned five (85-80).

The Celtics certainly didn't waste a great effort, which was a source of consolation to the mentor. "This was a good lesson night for us at this stage of the season," claimed Bill Fitch. "This is a place where you can come in and play your best game and still not win. If any good came out of this, it was that we didn't waste this lack of effort and execution on a poor team."

Fitch was not pleased with his team's overall defense, nor did he appreciate the occasional lapses of common sense on offense. Despite it all, the team was alive at 85-80 and had Bird sailing in for a layup when Harvey Catchings made a superb rejection.

A 10-second violation on the Bucks gave the ball right back, but on Boston's next possession, a Cedric Maxwell-to-Robert pass went awry and Mickey Johnson (a very Wicksian stat night, so pay no attention to his box score) converted a fast break layup at the other end, while drawing a foul. His missed free throw came out deep and Catchings caromed in a jump hook. Suddenly it was 89-80, and the Celtics could not recover.

Winters had dominated the first half with 10-for-14 shooting, much of it the result of sweet medium range jumpers created by well-set Milwaukee picks.

"He comes off those picks," said Chris Ford, who had the unenviable task of guarding Mr. W., "and they set great picks. It doesn't take him long to get it up, either. The minute it touches his hands, it's up."

Moncrief, meanwhile, scored on jumpers, back door layups, alley-oops, rebound followups and free throws. He also ran a nice 1-4 offense the Bucks call their "motion" series, and he ran it expertly. "The offense," explained Nelson, "depends on the man out front making good decisions. We're no different than anyone else. We want the ball in the hands of people who know what to do with it." Winters feasted all night, shooting behind those picks.

Said Fitch, "It (the 1-4) is good if your outside shooting is good. They could have run a three-man game tonight against our five, the way we were playing defense."

It was, in sum, a pleasure to watch, and as the fans filed out of the arena the names of Marques Johnson (holdout) and Junior Bridgeman (knee injury) were forgotten, at least temporarily.

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