Celtics clamp down in second half for 124-109 win over Bucks

Celtics clamp down in second half for 124-109 win over Bucks

BOSTON - If Brad Stevens' main objective is to make sure his team is playing well headed into the postseason, Friday night was another step in the right directions.

While, yes, the Celtics did allow 58 points on 56.4-shooting from the field in the first half, it was the way in which they closed out the second quarter and carried the momentum into the second half that propelled them to a 124-109 win over the Bucks.

The Celtics outscored the Bucks 11-3 in the final three minutes of the second quarter and grew their seven-point halftime lead to a whopping 21 points, outscoring the Bucks 36-22 and holding them to just 33-percent shooting from the field.

The two-headed monster of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker kept the Bucks in things in the first half, but foul trouble limited Antetokounmpo in the second half, as he picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter.

He had 20 of his game-high 27 points at halftime. Parker, meanwhile, finished with 18 points.

And for the first time in 18 games, it was not Isaiah Thomas who led the Celtics in scoring - though he still was a major factor in the win. Thomas finished with 20 points (not needing to play the fourth quarter due to the Celtics' big lead) but it was Celtics big man Tyler Zeller who led the team with a whopping 26 points.

Avery Bradley scored 16 points and Jared Sullinger had 15. Kelly Olynyk added 16 off the bench on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting.

Player of the Game

It's not often we can give it to a player other than Isaiah Thomas, so we'll jump at the opportunity to give it to Tyler Zeller tonight. Zeller hasn't been called upon as much as he'd have liked this season, but there's something to be said about a player ready for the call at any moment. It speaks to the professional Zeller is, and you can be sure Brad Stevens appreciates that. Zeller's 26 points ties a career-high he set last season.

Turning Point

Giannis Antetokounmpo had just hit a three-pointer to put the Bucks up one point, 55-54, before Brad Stevens took a timeout with 2:41 remaining in the second quarter. The Celtics then came out firing, as Jared Sullinger hit a three-pointer from the corner to put the C's back up two points. Then four. Then eventually eight. They never looked back.

Stat to Track

The Celtics had a whopping 70 points in the paint against the Bucks, choosing to take it to them at the basket instead of hoist three-pointers. Boston only took 14 three pointers on the night, which is low for them.

Yup, he can play

You hear so much about Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Greek Freak did not disappoint Friday night. It was clear from the very start that the only person going to stop Antetokounmpo was himself. Nobody on the Celtics had any luck guarding him, especially when he had a full head of steam. Antetokounmpo had 17 points at the end of the first quarter, but picked up fouls and essentially took himself out of the game by doing so. Once he learns how to control his body a bit more, watch out.

What's Next?

The Celtics are on to Atlanta instantly as they get set for the second night of a back-to-back against the Hawks Saturday night. The Hawks didn't play Friday night so might have a little more energy than Boston, but the C's have been strong in back-to-backs this season so it should be a good one.

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

NBC Sports Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

1:25 - With half of the Celtics roster on the shelf, we’ve been able to see just how great a scorer Jayson Tatum can be. A. Sherrod Blakely, Mike Girardi and Trenni Kusnierek discuss how Tatum compares to Celtics legend, Paul Pierce.

5:35 - The NFL Competition Committee is giving it their best shot at modifying the ‘catch rule’ and Tom Curran, Kyle Draper and Hardy try to wrap their heads around the proposed changes.

11:02 - The Bruins clinched a playoff berth despite losing to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Joe Haggerty joins Tom Giles to break down the game, which included another goal by Ryan Donato and a questionable call on a high hit on David Krejci.

Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday


Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday

The second opinion on Kyrie Irving’s sore left knee will be done on Thursday, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.

Irving, who has missed the last four games, is expected to decide between having a surgical procedure performed to help alleviate some of the soreness, or continue to manage it with rest.


During the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap injury which was the beginning of Irving’s left knee issues.

While Irving has had soreness of some form during various stretches of play this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen him making progress recently.

“That knee is still sore,” Stevens said. “He’s worked really hard to manage it throughout the entire season. He’s had some pretty good days recently. I’m encouraged by the big picture.”

But Stevens has made it clear that he supports Irving getting a second opinion, adding that Irving’s absence is due to the knee being too sore for him to play at a level he’s accustomed to.

“He’s out because of knee soreness, not because we’re choosing to rest him,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. Again, we want him to feel 110 percent. He wants to feel 110 percent. Obviously, we’re fortunate we created a cushion early on in the year with playoffs and everything else. This is not one of those situations where we’re choosing to rest someone; it’s because he has a sore knee.”