Surviving a torrid fourth-quarter comeback that sent the game to overtime, the Bucks defeated the Celtics, 99-94, on Friday night thanks to some no-shows from the Boston Big Three.
A mostly mundane midseason affair throughout, it took the game until its final moments to be truly captivating.
Holding a seven-point lead with 33 seconds remaining, it looked as if Milwaukee would waltz away with a hard-fought, but relatively comfortable win. However, massive gaffes from Brandon Jennings allowed the Celtics back into the contest.
After two free throws brought the Celtics to within five at 88-83, Jennings went to the line and promptly missed a pair of his own. That led to a Jeff Green layup, and a subsequent turnover by Jennings on the next possession.
When Pierce knocked down a brilliant three-pointer with two seconds remaining to tie the contest at 88-88 and send the game to overtime, you could feel the air lift from the players on the Bucks bench.
Nevertheless, they came back in the overtime period motivated and received great performances from Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders.
In particular, Sanders was phenomenal. Dominating the Boston interior, Sanders scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and added a whopping 20 rebounds. The Milwaukee center's great performance is the latest indication of the Celtics' interior woes and they reared their head on Friday.
Even more disconcerting for the Celtics is that their loss marred a throwback performance from Pierce. The Boston star, who has struggled intermittently this season, had 35 points, 12 boards and five assists, single-handedly carrying his team for much of the game.
Unfortunately for Doc Rivers' crew, Pierce was the only member of the new Big Three who showed up on Friday. Kevin Garnett shot 6-of-22 en route to a 14-point, seven-rebound night and Rajon Rondo had exactly six points to go along with his 11 assists.
To put it mildly, this game won't go down as the one that sparked a Celtics turnaround.
Player of the Game: Larry Sanders
It really couldn't have been anyone else. Though Ellis had 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Sanders was an absolute monster on the inside throughout the game. He kept Garnett in check and also made life difficult when the Celtics drove to the basket.
This has been a season of wild up-and-down swings production-wise for Sanders, but Friday night he was utterly brilliant.
What's Next for the Bucks?
Following a hard-fought game, the Bucks will have less than 24 hours to recover before Saturday night's home tilt against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What's Next for the Celtics?
On the other hand, the Celtics get a cozy three-day break before taking the road to play the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas day.
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