Antetokounmpo helps Bucks spoil Celtics' home opener, 108-100

Antetokounmpo helps Bucks spoil Celtics' home opener, 108-100

BOSTON – Before Wednesday night’s tip-off against the Milwaukee Bucks, a recorded message from Gordon Hayward played on the Jumbotron above center court.
Hayward, out indefinitely after suffering a dislocated left ankle and fractured tibia in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday, had a simple message for those at the TD Garden about wishing he was there with his teammates.


They feel the same way, especially after coming up short for the second time in as many nights.
This time it was the Milwaukee Bucks getting it done down the stretch in defeating Boston 108-100.
Boston (0-2) has opened the season with back-to-back losses for the first time since 2013, Brad Stevens’ first season as the Celtics head coach.
After a fairly close start, Boston found itself down 58-53 at the half.
And just like their game at Cleveland the previous night, the Celtics were a different team in the third quarter.
Boston would pull ahead by as many as six points in the third before going into the fourth holding on to an 80-76 lead.
Jaylen Brown, who scored a career-high 25 points against the Cavs on Tuesday, was the catalyst to Boston’s third-quarter surge with nine of his 18 points in the quarter.
But Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, limited early on with foul trouble, seemed to get stronger and more impactful as the game progressed. He was one rebound shy of a double-double at the half, before finishing with 37 points and 13 rebounds.
Most of the fourth quarter was spent as a one-possession game, with neither team showing the ability to take over and pull away until the final few minutes as Milwaukee made just enough plays at both ends of the floor to keep the Celtics from overtaking them.


Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”


Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

File Photo

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

The Celtics defeated the Knicks in a game that had a little bit of everything Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics to victory and dominated in all of the important situations.

But he came out of the night a little pissed off.

During the Warriors-Thunders game tonight, Russell Westbrook drove to the paint and fell to the ground.

After Westbrook fell to the ground Zaza Pachulia appears to intentionally fall on to the back of his legs.

The play irritated Irving enough for him to air out his thoughts publicly on Instagram.