Celtics fans have become accustomed to Paul Pierce playing most, if not all, of
the fourth quarter in close games. So, it was a strange sight when
coach Doc Rivers replaced Pierce with Jiri Welsch with 4 minutes 39
seconds remaining last night.
was more than surprised by the move. As he walked angrily back to the
bench, Pierce exchanged a few words with Rivers. The coach could be
heard shouting, "You're sitting," at Pierce. Clearly, Pierce wanted to
play with the game hanging in the balance.
got his chance with 2:54 remaining and promptly hit a 3-pointer from
the right wing. That basket went a long way toward securing a 101-100
victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Pierce finished with a team-high 23
points, though after his 3-pointer he committed a turnover, and missed a
17-footer with less than a minute left that could have sealed the game.
the end, the officals disallowed a tying 16-footer by Maurice Williams
after he pushed off on Tony Allen to score. Pierce went to the line and
made 1 of 2 shots, giving the Bucks one last shot to tie the game with
2.7 seconds remaining. They got a layup by Keith Van Horn, which was not
enough. Mark Blount recorded 16 points and 16 rebounds, while Michael
Redd led Milwaukee with 23 points.
After solid play in the third quarter, Boston entered the final period ahead, 83-80. Although the Celtics' accuracy from the floor dropped to 40 percent, the Green held Milwaukee to just 35 percent in the fourth.
A layup by Blount gave Boston the lead in the third. With 4 straight points during the latter stages of the period, the Celtics stretched their lead to 5 (75-70) with 3:38 left. The Celtics were still in need of a big, breakaway run. They would not get one in the third.
Redd, who always seems to give the Celtics
trouble, hit an 11-footer from the left corner to tie the score, 90-90,
with 6:34 left in the fourth. Then, a free throw by Redd a little more
than a minute later gave Milwaukee a 91-90 lead with 5:27 to go. The
teams stayed close, swapping the lead down the stretch. Milwaukee
brought plenty of energy to the floor as it took a 58-54 lead into
halftime. Not long ago, Redd qualified as one of the most overlooked
shooting guards in the league. In just two quarters last night, it was
clear why his NBA profile has rapidly increased and why many thought he
would have made a huge difference for the US Olympic team. Redd dropped
16 points in just 19 minutes, going 4 for 5 from 3-point range.
the first quarter, Redd single-handedly erased a 6-point Boston lead
with consecutive 3-pointers. It was the largest advantage either team
would hold in the first half. A 3-pointer by Van Horn pushed the Bucks
ahead by 4. But again, the game was quickly tied.
If the Celtics
wanted to have a chance in the second half, they would need to stop the
Bucks' production from the perimeter. Milwaukee shot 63 percent from
3-point range in the first half, compared to 49 percent from the field
overall. Boston struggled from the outside, but made up for its
difficulties, outscoring Milwaukee, 16-0, on the fast break and, 26-18,
in the paint.
Bucks staged a 9-2 run in the second that gave them a 44-38 lead with
6:26 remaining in the quarter. But they could not stretch their lead as
pieced together a quick 6-0 run and, once again, evened the score.
During the first half, there were 10 ties and 13 lead changes. By
closing the half with a 5-2 spurt, Milwaukee earned the halftime
There were some impressive moments by the Celtics
in the first half, including a behind-the-back pass by Pierce. The
captain was speeding toward the right side of the paint attracting three
Milwaukee defenders when he dished the ball backward to Raef LaFrentz,
who scored on a layup. After a free throw by Ricky Davis, Pierce gave
Boston its last lead of the half with a driving dunk on the break. In
addition to Pierce, Blount helped the Celtics' offense keep pace.