Celtics host the Bucks as they look to get back to .500

Milwaukee Bucks (14-20)  at  Boston Celtics (16-17)
Wednesday, February 29
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #34,  Home Game #20
TV:  CSN-NE, FSN-WI, LP 754/755 (DTV)
Radio:  WEEI, WTMJ
TD Garden
Referees:   Bill Spooner,  John Goble,  Courtney Kirkland
The Celtics are finally back at the Garden after a 5 game road trip that was interrupted by the All Star game.  They also have a chance to get back to .500 with a win in this game. 

Both teams are coming off close wins over bad teams.  The Celtics barely outlasted the Cavs and the Bucks came away with a 1 point win over the Wizards.  The Celtics starters all played between 32 and 35 minutes while the Bucks starters played anywhere between 17 and 38 minutes.  Fatigue could be a factor for both teams.  Doc may need to lean more on the younger players in this one. 

The Celtics are 3-7 in their last 10 games while the Bucks are 4-6 in their last 10.  The Celtics are 11-8 at home and the Bucks are 6-12 on the road.  This is the first meeting between these two teams with two more to come, 3/22 at Milwaukee and 4/26 in Boston. 

The Celtics are still in the 8th spot in the East and Milwaukee is right behind them in the 9th spot, 2.5 games back.  The Bucks are hoping to stay in playoff contention and make a move when Bogut comes back.  This will be a big game for them with that goal in mind.  They can move a game in the standings with a win here.  The Celtics need to keep that in mind and they need to come out ready to play and not let up.  

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Brandon Jennings

Shooting Guard

Ray Allen vs Shaun Livingston

Small Forward

Paul Pierce vs Carlos Delfino

Power Forward
Brandon Bass vs Ersan Ilyasova


Kevin Garnett vs Drew Gooden

Celtics Reserves

Avery Bradley
Brandon Bass
Mickael Pietrus
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Sasha Pavlovic
Greg Stiemsma
Keyon Dooling
Marquis Daniels

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out

Bucks Bench
Larry Sanders
Benu Udrih
Luc Mbah a Moute
Mike Dunleavy
Jon Brockman
Drew Gooden
Tobias Harris
Stephen Jackson

Andrew Bogut (ankle) out
Jon Leuer (illness)  questionable
Stephen Jackson (questionable)

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Brandon Jennings
Jennings is a good young PG who is working to make a name for himself in the league.  Jennings has talked trash in every game against the Celtics.   You might even remember him shouting trash at KG as he was heading to the locker room after the game in his rookie year.  Rondo should look to make a statement here and win this match up in a big way. 

Kevin Garnett vs Ersan Ilyasova
Both teams are playing in back to back games and both KG and Gooden are both a bit long in the tooth, with KG being a bit longer.  KG also has an intimidation factor going for him.  After KG's step it up speech before the break, I expect nothing less than full effort from him.  Gooden left the game vs the Wizards on Tuesday after falling hard on his back.  He's listed as questionable for tonight's game.  If he can't play, Jon Leuer would probably get the start.   If Gooden is sidelined for this game, it will be the third consecutive matchup with Boston that he has missed..   

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Shaun Livingston
Ray has had plenty of rest over the break, so he should be good to go.  Livingston has a height advantage but I don't see him keeping up with Ray through all the screens that Ray goes through to get open.  The Celtics need Ray to get hot in order to spread the floor and keep the defenses from collapsing inside. 

Keys to the Game
Defense -  With the second half of the season, the Celtics must renew their commitment to defense.  Before their current 5 game losing streak they were the top defensive team in the league but recently they have allowed easy baskets and tip ins every game.  They have to get back to locking down teams and making them work for their points. 

Energy and Hustle -  The Celtics have been playing like they are running in mud.  They have to be more aggressive in going to the basket and chasing loose balls and crashing the boards.  The more aggressive team will get the calls and will have the momentum.   The Celtics must play with more energy and win the 50-50 and hustle plays. 

Rebound - The Celtics must crash the boards to prevent the Bucks from getting second chance points.  With Bogut back, the Celtics have to make more of an effort to grab rebounds.     Rebounding is all about effort and when the Celtics put out the effort on the boards that effort seems to carry over into all the other areas of their game.  Failure to rebound will result in a failure to win. 

Work the Offense
- The Celtics offense has been off    The Celtics must move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man.  The Celtics starters have been struggling to hit shots.  They have even been missing a large number of layups and shots in the paint.  It may have been fatigue,  or it may be a lack of focus or mental toughness.  Whatever the problem, hopefully they can figure it out.  The long scoreless droughts that we have seen recently have got to go away if they want to win on a consistent basis. 

Limit Turnovers- The Celtics turn the ball over way too much.  They make careless passes.  They lose track of their defender and lose the ball to them.  They dribble into traffic and lose the handle. Against the Cavs, Pierce must have dribbled into a double team 3 or 4 times and was stripped every time.  They had 17 turnovers with 10 in the second quarter.   All of this could be fixed with more focus and discipline on the part of each player. 

Official Report

Bill Spooner
Over the past 22 seasons, veteran official Bill Spooner has worked 1,234 regular season games, and 79 NBA playoff games. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner is the ref who failed to call Kobe's elbow to the throat of Ron Artest a couple years back, even though he was the ref in position to call it. Artest's complaints resulted in his ejection but nothing was called on Kobe in the game. The league later admitted their error and assessed Kobe a flagrant 1 for the elbow. But that didn't help Houston who had to play without Artest the rest of the game. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Spooner while the Bucks are 2-8 in their last 10. The loss was in Dallas where the Celtics took 32 free throws to 25 for the Mavs and the officiating was pretty bad both ways. Spooner's home W/L record this season is 14-10.

John Goble
John Goble enters his fourth season having officiated 259 regular season games and seven playoff games. He also officiated the 2010 NBA All-Star Rookie/Sophomore game. Prior to working in the NBA, Goble officiated 104 games over four seasons in the NBA Development League and was selected to officiate the 2007 D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences. Seems odd that Goble already has worked the playoffs with just 3 years of experience and others have been in the league 12 years or more and haven't cracked the playoff rotation yet. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games that Goble has officiated. The win this season was against Chicago where the Celtics shot 26 free throws to 24 for the Bulls. The Bucks are 1-2 this season and also 7-3 in their last 10 games with Goble. His home W/L record this season is 15-13.

Courtney Kirkland
Over the past 11 seasons, Courtney Kirkland has officiated 675 regular season games and 10 playoff games. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, including the 2000 WNBA Championship and the 1999 Conference Finals. Prior to joining the NBA, Kirkland also worked three seasons in the CBA where he officiated the 1999 and 2000 CBA Finals as well as the 2000 CBA All-Star Game. He was a high school official for four years. Kirkland was a member of the Northwestern High School basketball team that made it to the state semifinals in 1991 and 1992. Kirkland received the school’s Academic award, and led the team in assists, and free throw and three point
shooting percentage. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 10-0 in their last 10 games that Kirkland officiated. The win this season was against Toronto in which the Celtics took 12 free throws to 18 for Toronto, but the game was well officiated over all. The Bucks are 0-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Kirkland. His home W/L record is 17-8.


Effort and Paul Pierce
The team is healthier than they have been in a long time.  Only Jermaine O'Neal is out and so they no longer have the excuse of not having all their players.  KG made the point that if guys weren't willing to step up then they needed to stay home.  Hopefully that speech is laying heavily on each player and we will see maximum effort from everyone.   Paul Pierce has been struggling.  The Celtics win streak coincided with some strong play from their captain.   They need Pierce to snap out of his slump in order to get back to winning on a consistent basis.