1.28.2010

DJ & Celtics Take 2-0 Lead Over Bucks

Celtics 125, Bucks 110
Game 2
1984 Eastern Conference Finals
Celtics Lead Series 2-0


Is it possible that the broom has been passed? Are the sweepees of 1983 about to turn the same trick on the Golden Pond Gang from Milwaukee?

It would be hard to take a contrary position after watching the Celtics' 125-110 nuking of the Bucks last night in Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference final.

But before Celtics fans start chanting "Beat LA," they might be reminded that the Celtics also defeated the Bullets and Knicks two straight in the Garden. Boston is 8-0 at home during this postseason, but 1-4 on the road, and Milwaukee's Wheeze Kids believe that they are capable of beating the Celtics at the Mecca.

Kevin McHale isn't putting his green 16-D's into his mouth this time. Careful to keep the Bucks off the obit page (he said the Knicks were "in the grave" after Game 2), Boston's sixth man said, "Mr. McHale is a good boy now. I touched the stove once and got burned. My dad told me not to do it again."

McHale's vaporized the Bucks last night with 14 points in 3:15 of the first half. The pride of Hibbing, Minn., finished with 24, which merited the third star of the evening. He was outdone only by Larry Bird (32 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, three steals) and Dennis Johnson (26 points on 9-of-17 shooting).

"I can score, and sometimes I get hot," said DJ, who is averaging 20 points in the three games since his shoulder injury. "I just had a good night shooting. They come around every time Halley's comet flies by."

While DJ is looking to the sky, the Bucks have to be wondering what happened between here and East Rutherford, N.J. Milwaukee wasn't handed a ticket to this championship round. The Bucks beat the Hawks in five, the Nets (who beat the vaunted Sixers) in six and have not changed appreciably since they smoked the Celtics in four straight one year ago.

The Bucks missed 18 of 24 shots in the first quarter last night and trailed, 32-21, after one. They were down by 23 in the second period, and it was an embarrassing 72-48 early in the third. In two Garden games, they led for a total of 30 seconds (4-3 in Game 1) and shot 43 percent (77-179).

"We're not doing it intentionally," said the estimable Sidney Moncrief (22 points, 7 rebounds). "Of course, we'd like to play better, but we haven't done that. We don't have any excuses. We just have to play better."

Last night's blowout was like every Celtics home game since the Knicks came to town. Boston dominated the first half and cruised after intermission.

Try these first-half numbers: The Celtics shot 56 percent to Milwaukee's 35. Bird had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, while McHale came off the bench for 18. Boston committed only four turnovers. Milwaukee's Bob Lanier was a 2-for-6 no-show. In the last five minutes of the first quarter and the first two of the second, Milwaukee scored one basket.

Don Nelson pulled a minor upset by starting Junior Bridgeman instead of Alton Lister. That meant Lanier was the only Buck over 6-feet-6 in the starting lineup, but Nelson wanted Lister off the bench to match up with McHale.

The Bucks missed their first five shots - including a Marques Johnson airball and a Lanier attempt that was blocked by Robert Parish. It should be noted that although he scored only 10 points, Parish turned in his second straight strong defensive job on Lanier, who has but 14 points in two games.

Leading, 20-17, with 3:22 left in the first, the Celtics made their move. Bird started a 10-minute, 33-13 run with a dazzling lefthander in the lane. Then McHale exploded with two switchblade moves inside, followed by six free throws.

Lister was helpless. When Milwaukee's scowling big man finally had a chance to vent his frustration, he missed a dunk on a three-on-one breakaway. Boston led, 32-21, after one.

It was the same story early in the second. McHale scored seemingly at will over Lister as the Bucks kept missing. A transition drive and layup by Cedric Maxwell made it 47-28. Then Bird hit two free throws (after Moncrief's third foul) and a foul-line jumper to make it 53-30 with 5:39 left in the half. Nelson called for time.

"We're not a high-scoring team, but tonight we got our shots. They just didn't go down," said Nelson.

Marques Johnson (29) fought his way to 12 second-period points, but the Bucks couldn't get any closer than 15 for the rest of the half. It was 67-48 at the half.

DJ slithered and crashed for five straight after intermission, and it got to 72-48 before the Bucks finally fought back. Marques, Bridgeman (17) and Moncrief made a dent, and the Bucks hit 13 of 14 from the line. Still, you got the feeling the Celtics weren't worried, because K.C. Jones inserted Greg Kite for Bird (Carroll Hardy for Ted Williams?) with 1:36 left in the third period.

Milwaukee trimmed the lead to 12 a couple of times in the fourth but couldn't stop the curtain calls - an in-your-face three-pointer by M.L. Carr.

"I know one thing," said Lanier. "If we lose the next two, we're in trouble."

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