Celtics push for an OT win
The Celtics showed all the symptoms of back-to-back-itis. Sluggishness (their flight from Detroit landed at Hanscom Field at 1 yesterday morning). Sloppiness (Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce combined for three traveling violations and Pierce launched a ball to no one in particular for an ugly backcourt violation). Carelessness (after controlling their turnovers against the Pistons they had another outbreak of them).
Throw in an off-the-court distraction in the form of Charlie Villanueva’s Tuesday night tweets about Kevin Garnett’s trash talk, and last night’s matchup with the Bucks was a recipe for a letdown much like the second part of the Celtics’ season-opening back-to-back in Cleveland.
They had to work through it all.
“The game had all kinds of valleys and peaks to it,’’ said Garnett. “Times where you’re looking for advantages, you take them.’’
The Celtics trailed entering the fourth quarter for the first time in the young season, but a shoving match between Garnett and Andrew Bogut sparked a late-game rally that pushed the game into overtime, where Pierce was able to seal it with a pair of milestone-setting free throws and clinched the Celtics’ 105-102 victory.
With 13.3 seconds left in OT, Pierce went to the line to hopefully create some breathing room. Sitting on 19,999 career points, he hit both to make him the 36th player in NBA history to reach the 20,000-point plateau, and the third to reach the mark entirely as a Celtic. He had to hit four more free throws for the Celtics to rest easy, polishing off a 12-point overtime and a 28-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist night.
“It was an emotional moment for me,’’ Pierce said. “It was a tough moment to swallow for me at the time just thinking about all the years that I’ve been here. You don’t see it too often where a player accomplishes that type of feat playing with one team. It’s a great accomplishment.
“When I thought about it, it wouldn’t have felt as good to do it if we didn’t get the win. So I tried to keep my composure, relax, take deep breaths, and keep composed.’’
The fourth-quarter fireworks woke up the Celtics. With 2:30 left in regulation, Garnett flushed a one-handed dunk with Bogut in his wake, drawing the foul. He threw a hardly noticeable elbow at Bogut, who retaliated by shoving Garnett. The two drew technicals. Garnett hit his free throw and the Celtics closed what was as large as a 7-point fourth-quarter deficit to 82-80. Seconds later, Pierce gave the Celtics the lead, turning a fast-break layup into a 3-point play, putting his team up for the first time since midway through the third quarter. The Celtics outscored the Bucks, 29-28, in the fourth, closing the quarter on a 23-16 run.
Garnett was hit with a tech late in Tuesday night’s win over the Pistons for arguing with Villanueva, who claimed via Twitter that Garnett said he looked like a “cancer patient.’’ Garnett, in a statement, denied it, saying he called Villanueva “a cancer to his team and the league.’’
Finding himself in the fire for a second straight night, Garnett said after last night’s game, “I’m a passionate player. With all these rules, I’m trying my best to get out of situations. It’s not that I’m trying to invite them, but the game is passionate.’’
Milwaukee hadn’t been razor sharp to start the season, having dropped three of its first four games as Bogut played while still coming back from the nasty broken arm he suffered last spring. But dealing with a back-to-back of their own, the Bucks were as much of a nuisance to the Celtics as they were last season, when they became the team Boston was trying to avoid meeting in the playoffs. Bogut finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova added 15 points off the bench.
“We did some things better tonight, that’s for sure,’’ said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. “We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot in regulation.’’
Despite holding the Bucks to 41.9 percent shooting in their first game against a team with a significant presence inside, the Celtics gave up 42 rebounds and let the Bucks score 21 points on second chances. But they were able to overcome it with the fourth-quarter surge.
Rondo had six of his 15 assists in the final frame, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Ray Allen dropped 23 points, nailing 3 of 8 3-pointers and pulling down six rebounds, helping the Celtics remain unbeaten at home, even if it wasn’t the prettiest win.
Coach Doc Rivers had a laundry list of all the game’s blemishes, particularly the miscues after the Celtics went ahead, 90-84, with 1:20 left in regulation and allowed the Bucks to force OT.
“It was a lot of stuff,’’ Rivers said. “We turned it over. Bad shots. Supposed to call a timeout. Didn’t call a timeout. Came out of a timeout and two guys were on the wrong side of the floor. We had two bad switches where they scored in like half a second.
“We really worked to get that to overtime. But we won the game, so we’ll take the win. It gives coaches an opportunity to point stuff out. So that’s what I’ll do.’’