BOSTON – It took a while, but the Boston Celtics finally got their offense on track as they rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second quarter to go into the half ahead 57-56.
Isaiah Thomas scored all 10 of his first-half points in the second quarter, including a pair of go-ahead free throws with 10.4 seconds to play in the half.
Al Horford deflected a pass into the paint, and immediately got it into the hands of Thomas whose last-second heave from near half court was just off the mark as time expired.
Boston spent most of the first half playing uphill which was somewhat surprising when you consider the Bucks were playing without All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell and Khris Middleton.
But even without those key players, the Bucks are still an extremely long team whose length has given the Celtics problems every time they have matched up this season.
The Bucks opened the game with a 9-4 spurt and led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. Boston showed signs of getting back in the game near the end of the first, but a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Milwaukee’s Mirza Teletovic put the Bucks ahead 36-25 after one quarter of play.
Boston’s second unit did a nice job defensively to start the second quarter, but struggled to generate offense.
But Marcus Smart’s defense changed that.
He became more aggressive in the half court sets, forcing a second quarter turnover that led to a Jaylen Brown dunk that brought Boston within six points.
Milwaukee pushed its lead back to double digits only for the Celtics to cut it to single digits, leading to a Bucks time-out following a Tyler Zeller lay-up.
Another basket by Zeller trimmed the Bucks’ lead to 43-39, the closest Boston had been since the 3:05 mark of the first quarter.
The Bucks once again responded with strong play at both ends of the floor which fueled a 9-2 run.
But Boston closed out the half on a 14-2 run to take a slim one-point lead in the half.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game between Boston and Milwaukee.
After a ho-hum start to the game, Thomas ignited near the end of the half with seven of Boston’s last 10 points of the quarter. His 10 first-half points all came in the second quarter.
He played a major factor in Milwaukee’s win over Boston last month, and he was once again making his presence felt. At the half, Brogdon had nine points and three rebounds.
No one benefited more from the attention drawn by Isaiah Thomas, than Jae Crowder. At the half, he leads the Celtics with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting with two rebounds and two assists.
If he could play against the Celtics every game, he would be a top-10 player in this league. Monroe didn’t play major minutes in the first half, but his presence was undeniable. He had eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 11 minutes.
This was one of the few games we’ve seen Horford aggressive from the outset looking for his own shot. At the half he had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
He showed a nice touch around the rim which allowed him to score nine points in the first half.
Boston’s first quarter defense
The Celtics showed little resistance to the Bucks constant attacks at the rim, resulting in Milwaukee shooting 60.9 percent in the first quarter which allowed them to lead by 11 points (36-25) after the first.