Celtics look to end Milwaukee's 6 game win streak

Boston Celtics (24-21) at Milwaukee Bucks (21-24)
Thursday,  March 22
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #46, Road Game #22
Radio:  WEEI, WTMJ
Bradley Center
Referees:  Dick Bavetta, Curtis Blair, Tony Brown
This is the second game between these two teams.  They first met in Boston with a 102-96 Celtics victory as a result.  The Bucks have been on a roll and they have won their last 6 games. 4 of those 6 were on the road, but the teams weren't top contenders in that they beat the Knicks (before their current run), Raptors, Nets, Cavs, Warriors, and Blazers.   The Celtics are 3-3 on their current 8 game road trip.  This game has big playoff implications for both the Celtics and the Bucks. 

The Bucks are in the 9th spot just  a game behind NY, who are on a 5 game win streak of their own,  for the 8th spot.   The Celtics are still in the 7th spot and are 2 games behind Atlanta for the 6th spot and they are just 1 game behind Philly for the division lead and the 4th spot.   Friday's game vs the Sixers will also be huge for the Celtics if they want to rise in the standings and avoid a first round meeting with the Bulls or the Heat.  A win tonight and tomorrow night will move the Celtics to first place in the Atlantic, and 4th seed in the East.  

The Bucks are 11th in points scored per game (97.55), while the Celtics are 26th (91.13).  The Celtics, however are more efficient with a field goal percentage of 46% (7th) while the Bucks are shooting 43% from the field (25th).   On the defensive end, the Celtics rank 3rd, allowing 90.6 points per game on 43% shooting,  while the Bucks rank 23rd, allowing 98.4 points per game on 45% shooting.  The Bucks aren't a great rebounding team, ranking 20th at 41.7 rebounds per game while the Celtics are still ranked last with 38.3 rebounds per game. 

The Bucks six game win streak is impressive.  The Celtics are just hoping to win their second in a row and 4th on the road trip.  If the Celtics move the ball and run their offense instead of lapsing into hero ball and if they crash the boards and take care of the ball, they should get the win.  But all of those are big ifs with this inconsistent Celtics team. 

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Brandon Jennings

Shooting Guard

Ray Allen vs Monta Ellis

Small Forward

Paul Pierce vs Carlos Delfino

Power Forward
Brandon Bass vs Ersan Ilyasova


Kevin Garnett vs Drew Gooden

Celtics Reserves

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

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Chris Wilcox (heart)  out
Greg Stiemsma (foot)  probable

Bucks Reserves
Larry Sanders
Beno Udrih
Luc Mbah a Moute
Mike Dunleavy
Jon Brockman
Tobias Harris
Jon Leuer
Ekpe Udoh

Kwame Brown  (shoulder) out
Shaun Livingston (ankle) 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.  Rondo should remember Jennings spouting garbage at KG as they walked down the tunnel after a Bucks win last season and let him know who is in charge right from the start.  Rondo put up a triple double in the last game vs the Bucks.  It would be nice to see him put up another in this game. 

Kevin Garnett vs Drew Gooden
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 has been playing very well and has carried the team at times.  Gooden was named Eastern Conference player of the week last week.  We should see a lot of wrestling going on between these two. 

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Monta Ellis 
Monta can put up points in a hurry, but then again so can Ray Allen.  In his debut for the Bucks against his old team, Ellis scored 18 points on 6-15 shooting.  This is his 3rd game with his new team and he is still learning their system.  He isn't known for his tough defense and so hopefully we will see Ray get some open shots in this game.  Ellis has given the Celtics problems in the past. He has averaged 27.4 points in his last 5 games vs Boston.  He has 41 and 37 points in his last two games vs the Celtics.  Hopefully he is still learning the Bucks' offense and may not be quite as effective.  This is Monta's home debut with the Bucks so there could be some emotions involved as well.

Keys to the Game

Work the Offense -  The Celtics must move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man.  Against the Hawks, when Pierce was on the bench they went on a run and much of that run was due to the good ball movement that resulted in finding players open for good shots.  When Pierce came back in, he dribbled the ball until the clock ran down and then he passed to a player with no chance to score.  3 possessions of that and the Celtics big lead was almost gone.  Hopefully we won't see that in this game.   They must move the ball and run the offense.  No more hero ball.       The long scoreless droughts that we have seen recently have got to go away if they want to win on a consistent basis.

Defense -  Defense is a key to a win in every game.  The Celtics must play defense and get stops.  They aren't going to outscore any team if they get into a shoot out.  They have to concentrate on playing tough team defense and lock the Bucks down. 

Focus and Energy - The Celtics must stay focused and play with energy for 48 minutes.    They have to be aggressive in going to the basket and chasing loose balls and crashing the boards. They can't continue to pour it on at the end and hope to pull it out. They have to establish the tempo and play hard from start to finish.   Every game recently, the Celtics will make a run and then they get sloppy and make 3 or 4 turnovers in a row.  They must keep their focus and avoid those costly turnovers.  They can't lose their focus and give the Bucks extra points by making careless passes and turnovers. 

Rebound - The Celtics must crash the boards to prevent the Bucks from getting second chance points.   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.   They did much better on the boards against the Hawks and they need to reproduce that effort here.

Official Report
Dick Bavetta was born December 10, 1939 and is currently a referee in the NBA. During the 2003-04 NBA season, Dick Bavetta officiated his 2,000th career NBA game, becoming only the sixth official (joining Jake O’Donnell, Earl Strom, Tommy Nunez, Joe Crawford and Jack Niess) in NBA history to reach that milestone. Throughout his career, he has never missed an assigned game, officiating 2,498 regular season and 257 playoff games, including 25 NBA Finals games. He was a member of the crew that worked the 1989, 1995 and 2007 NBA All-Star Games, 1997 McDonald’s Championship in Paris, 1993 Mexico Challenge, 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and 1990 Japan Games in Tokyo. Prior to joining the NBA, Bavetta was an official with the Eastern League (CBA) for nine years, and he has also officiated in the Rucker League, FIBA, Jersey Shore Basketball League, as well as both the Public and Catholic High School leagues in New York City. There is no shortage of controversy surrounding Bavetta. He was singled out in Tim Donaghy's book for being a "company man" and carrying out league agendas in games. Bavetta also likes to keep games close and will often make a lot of calls against a team that pulls out to a lead to keep the game more exciting. After watching a game where Bavetta has officiated, it's very easy to believe Donaghy's claims. He was left off the playoff roster last season and there were rumors of a forced retirement but here he is back again for another season. There are also rumors that he died 3 years ago and his contract with the devil allows him to continue to referee games. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Bavetta on the court. The loss this season was in Miami where the Heat shot 37 free throws to 25 for the Celtics. The Bucks are 1-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Bavetta. His home W/L record is 19-13.

Curtis Blair
Curtis Blair is entering his fourth NBA season having officiated 164 regular season games. Blair has six seasons of NBA D-League experience and worked the 2008 NBA D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences. Blair graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Richmond in 1992 where he
was a member of the 1991 Men’s basketball team that upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992 but never played a game for the Rockets. He played professionally in Australia, Austria and
Turkey. Following his overseas playing career, Blair became a referee in the NBA. Celtics are 2-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Blair as an official. Both of the wins this season (Knicks and Nets) were called evenly. The loss was a 3 point loss vs the Lakers where LA shot 26 free throws to 12 for the Celtics. The Bucks are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Blair and 1-0 this season. His home W/L record this season is 21-13.

Tony Brown
Tony Brown has officiated 536 regular season games in his first nine seasons as an NBA official. Brown officiated his first playoff game during the 2010-11 season. Prior to joining the NBA, he officiated for four seasons in the NBA Development League and CBA and three in the WNBA. During that time he worked the 2002 D-League Finals, the 2002 WNBA All-Star Game and the 2001 CBA Finals.d for the NBDL, the CBA and the WNBA. This is the the fourth Celtics game for Brown this season. The first two were wins in which the Celtics shot 29 free throws to 39 for their opponents. The third game was the loss to the Hornets where the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 25 for the Hornets. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Brown and the Bucks are also 5-5 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 20-15.

Rest and a Sense of Urgency
The Celtics have had 2 days rest coming into this game.   In the past they have played very well with 2 days rest and hopefully they will be rested and energized for this game.  With every game having an effect on their playoff position,  they must approach each game with a sense of urgency and play with energy and focus.