Celtics takeaways: White shines again as shorthanded C's lose to Bucks in OT


The Boston Celtics were severely shorthanded in Tuesday night's road game against the Milwaukee Bucks and nearly pulled off an upset.

The C's didn't have four of their top-six scorers -- Jayson Tatum (non-Covid illness), Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), Al Horford (knee soreness) and Marcus Smart (ankle sprain).

The Celtics led by 12 points at one point in the third quarter, but the Bucks made a huge run and hit several clutch shots late in the fourth quarter to take a 116-113 lead with 7.4 seconds remaining. 

Boston forced overtime with a high-arcing 3-pointer from Sam Hauser.

The C's scored the first five points of overtime to take a 121-116 lead, but the Bucks finished the period on a 15-4 run to escape with a 131-125 victory. Jrue Holiday led all players with 40 points and hit some massive 3-point shots late in the game, including one that gave Milwaukee a 127-125 lead with 25 seconds remaining in OT. Holiday shot 8-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Celtics Talk POSTGAME POD: Shorthanded C's push Bucks to the brink but fall short in OT | Listen & Subscribe

The Celtics have a 41-17 record and still lead the NBA standings with one more game -- Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden -- before the All-Star break. Milwaukee's win streak is now up to 11 games.


Here are four takeaways from Celtics-Bucks.

1. Bucks even season series

The Celtics' loss has trimmed their lead over the Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference to just a half game. The season series also is tied, and the third and final meeting between these teams isn't until March 30 in Milwaukee. 

That could be a pivotal game because if these teams finish tied in the standings at the end of the regular season, the winner of the season series will have the tiebreaker and get the higher seed.

It's important for the Celtics to finish with the No. 1 seed and, as a result, likely play only one of the Bucks or Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs. If the Celtics finish with the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, they'll probably need to go through both the Bucks and 76ers to reach the NBA Finals.

Home court advantage is very important in the NBA playoffs, and the Celtics definitely benefited from it last season when they hosted the Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden and won.

Circle that March 30 game on your calendar. It could be a huge matchup.

2. Derrick White still on fire

White recently won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, and he kept his hot streak going against the Bucks.

After the Bucks went on a huge run between the third and fourth quarter to erase a 12-point deficit and lead 99-97 with 8:48 remaining in regulation, White scored back-to-back baskets to put Boston back ahead 101-99. 

White also scored the first five points of the overtime period -- a drive to the bucket and a 3-pointer. The veteran point guard poured in 27 points with 12 assists and three steals in 43 minutes. White is averaging 22.5 points in February (seven games) on 52.2 percent shooting. He's also hitting 48.8 percent from beyond the arc during that span.

White is enjoying the best stretch of his Celtics career with Smart sidelined due to injury. The challenge for the Celtics will be trying to help White keep up this level of play when Smart is back in the lineup. 

3. Mike Muscala paying early dividends

Muscala was acquired by the Celtics at the trade deadline last Thursday and he's already made a strong impact in his first three games. 

After scoring 12 points in 16 minutes during his C's debut on Friday and then 10 points versus the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, the veteran forward racked up 10 points over the first five minutes of Tuesday's matchup.

Muscala also put the ball on the floor and threw down a dunk early in the third quarter. He wanted a foul on the play and picked up the first technical foul of his NBA career.


Muscala finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting with six rebounds and one steal. He also played 44 minutes, and before Tuesday he hadn't seen 30-plus minutes in a game since Jan. 15, 2020 with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Muscala has been better than expected early in his Boston tenure. His outside shooting, movement without the basketball and ability to play multiple positions have all proven valuable for the C's. He's someone who deserves a meaningful role even when the team is at full strength.

4. Blake Griffin effective at both ends of the court

Injuries in the frontcourt have opened up an opportunity for Griffin to make a stronger impact over the last couple games, and he's taking full advantage of it.

Griffin gave a solid all-around effort versus the Bucks with 15 points, six assists, six rebounds, one steal, one block and two charges drawn in 24 minutes of action. 

The veteran forward has found his stroke from 3-point range, too. He shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc Tuesday and has hit nine of his last 16 3-pointers. 

Griffin has been so good from 3-point range recently that the Bucks had to respect him on the perimeter, and he used that to his advantage on this drive to the hoop during the first quarter.

After scoring 10-plus points just twice in his first 22 games this season, Griffin has been in double-digits twice over the last three games. He's given the Celtics a little of everything with Horford and Williams missing some games during the last week.