Celtics Get Thumped by the Bucks at Home Opener 99-88

This game was another stinker.

No urgency, horrible defense, too many turnovers, no rebounding, bad shooting and early foul trouble. The complete recipe for a disaster, and it was all against a bad Milwaukee Bucks team.

Inexcusable loss.

For a team that prides itself on defense, tonight it was non-existent. When Kevin Garnett is in full control of what’s going on in the defensive end, then the Celtics have a good chance in winning. But that was nowhere to be found tonight. The Celtics were eaten alive by the fast and talented backcourt combination of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. It was the second straight game where the defense looked lost. Obviously, the new guys are still learning, but the display over the last two games has been atrocious. The learning curve has been pretty slow.

Rebounding is still a joke. It has been for a few years now. Five guys stand around while James Franco’s twin Ersan Ilyasova pulls down 11 rebounds, including four offensive ones, is unacceptable. I know the Celtics like to get into transition after an offensive possession, but watching them get beat on the boards is painful. Teams that don’t rebound, don’t win championships. Ask Bill Russell about how important rebounding is.

The offense was just as bad as the defense. There was no urgency at all in pushing the ball, and that led to turnovers and bad shots. It was Jekyll and Hyde for the offense all night.

The Celtics shot just 30 percent in the first half, including a pathetic 28.3 percent in the second quarter. When the first half finished they were down by 16, and with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, they were down by 22. The Celtics did come back in the second half by shooting 61 percent, but the defense and poor decision-making in general killed them.

Let’s look at some individual performances.

The floor general Rajon Rondo had just three assists in the first half. As a leader, it’s his job to get the ball into the hands of his shooters and to make defenses work on every possession. That didn’t happen. By the time Rondo turned it on in the second half, where he had eights assist, it was too late.

Part of the reason Rondo had a bad night was probably to due to Paul Pierce’s ineffectiveness. He was pretty much useless tonight. Pierce had three fouls, two turnovers, and two points in just 10 minutes during the first half.

This reminds me, what is going on with Pierce’s shooting recently. It has been atrocious. He has chucked up some horrible shots recently. Has he morphed into Antoine Walker or something? What gives. I know he was injured last year, but his shooting in the first few games this year have been reminiscent of last year. A year ago, his shooting percentage was .443, down from .497 the year before. Let’s hope age isn’t taking over his body.

With him gone, Jeff Green took his place and he didn’t look to good either.

Green did play better than he did against the Miami Heat a few nights ago, but he still sucked. I don’t know why, but he has a hard time handling a pass and getting into the paint. Green was doing that during the preseason, but after all that was just the preseason. In 27 minutes, he scored just 11 points. Out of those 11 points, seven came in the third quarter where he made all three shots, including a 3-pointer. Overall, for someone who needed to redeem himself after that stinker in Miami, he failed.

Garnett did alright on offense. Nothing to write home about. Under Garnett’s standards, he sucked.

He struggled making easy shots under the basket in the first half, but scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half. I wouldn’t worry about Garnett.

Basketball’s favorite whipping boy Darko Milicic played in his first game with the Celtics, and it was quite forgettable. He looked like a lost little boy looking for his puppy tonight. In just over four minutes, he had two turnovers, a foul, a rebound and a missed shot. That was all in the first half too. Doc Rivers never let him leave the bench after that.

Looking at Jason Terry, he too had a Jekyll and Hyde game. He played only nine minutes in the first half and struggled where he missed his only two shots. In the fourth quarter alone, Terry made all four of his shots including two 3-pointers in all 12 minutes of play. Pretty impressive. Like everyone else though, there was too much inconsistency and when he started to heat up, it was too little and too late.

Despite Terry’s inconsistencies, I’m wondering if he should start over Courtney Lee, who was brutal tonight too. In 33 minutes, he scored just seven points and had three turnovers. One of the turnovers was an ugly pass that was intercepted by Jennings, who took the steal and blew past the Celtics up the court for an easy basket. In fact, that was one of six steals Jennings had in the game too.

I was also disappointed in Rivers tonight. Usually I agree with most of what he does, but not tonight. I never thought I’d see the day that he’d give a rookie more minutes than a veteran. In this case, we’re talking about Jared Sullinger, the young and talented power forward who so far has looked overmatched against the competition. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sullinger will turn out to be a very good player, but I think there’s too much pressure on the rookie. Tonight, he played in 18 minutes. That’s more than double the minutes that Milicic and Chris Wilcox received combined. One of the veterans should’ve gotten more of Sullinger’s minutes. Wilcox has been aching to play, and letting Milicic play just four minutes doesn’t cut it. If Rivers is just going to yank a player like that out of a game for below average basketball and not play him again, they might as well release him.

Oh, Leandro Barbosa went back to being irrelevant too.

If there was a bright side to the game, it’d have to be Brandon Bass. He didn’t have a game like he did against Miami, but he played extremely hard. Bass had 10 points, six rebounds and three uncanny assists. He did struggle on the defensive side like everyone else. Help and rotating defensive schemes that involved him broke down. Jennings and Ellis were able to blow past him for easy scores.

It was also nice to see Wilcox back after his season was cut short last year due to a heart irregularity, which required heart surgery in the offseason. He scored two points.

Overall, the Bucks are a bad team and the Celtics should’ve won. They know it, you know it and I know it. Next up is the Washington Wizards. They’re probably worse than the Bucks. Beating them shouldn’t be an issue for the Celtics, but after tonight’s performance, who knows. One thing for sure is that the defense needs to shape up quick. Rebounding has to be better and defensive needs to pick it up if they want to win. No more allowing 120 or 99 points. The Celtics are better then that. The offense needs to get on the same page and show some urgency too. Consistency, consistency, consistency is the important factor if they want to win.

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