for this game

Celtics clamp down on defense, top Bucks

Nov 8, 2008 - 4:45 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Once the Boston Celtics get past such sluggish starts, it's business as usual.

Paul Pierce led five players in double figures with 18 points as the Celtics overcame another lackluster opening to post a 101-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

Kevin Garnett scored 16 points and Tony Allen and Eddie House combined for 24 off the bench for Boston, which now has won 22 of its last 23 home games, including the 2008 postseason.

While such numbers are impressive, the world champs were talking about an incomplete effort.

"We gotta do a better job definitely of getting off to better starts," Pierce said. "The last few games we've been starting slow then settling in, but that's up to the starters at the beginning of the games."

Richard Jefferson led the Bucks with 20 points, scoring 14 of them during a torrid opening six minutes. Charlie Bell added just five points while starting in place of injured star Michael Redd, who missed his second straight game for Milwaukee with a sprained right ankle.

On Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, the Celtics trailed by eight points after one quarter before tightening their defense and cruising to a 96-83 win. They were just as slow out of the gate in this one, in large part due to Jefferson.

"(Jefferson) just came out and hit some tough shots," Garnett said. "A lot of these teams we're playing are coming out with what we call gas. We went through this last year. That's when teams come out and they're just hitting everything, and we have a saying that we can withstand the first six minutes of the opposing teams' blow then we get into sync."

That's exactly what occurred Friday.

Halfway through the first quarter, Jefferson was 6-of-6 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers. The Celtics were just 5-of-13 to that point, had three turnovers and trailed early by as many as 11 points.

But Jefferson finally missed with 3:48 left in the first, and Boston slowly began to chip away at what was then a 10-point deficit.

"We guarded him better," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Jefferson. "He got off to a great start, and then I thought we just focused on him more."

Jefferson was 2-of-9 from the floor following his hot start.

Following a pair of free throws by Ray Allen midway through the second, Pierce scored on a hard drive to forge the game's first tie, 42-42, since the game was less than two minutes old. Garnett's dunk moments later gave the Celtics their first lead, an advantage they would never lose.

Rivers said he felt it was a matter of time before his team found its rhythm. Boston had returned from a three-game road trip at 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

"We talked about it as a staff," he said of the trip and its effects. "We were concerned with the start."

The Celtics took an eight-point lead into halftime, but Milwaukee opened the second half on a 12-6 run and was within five entering the fourth.

A largely lifeless crowd woke up to help Boston force a 24-second violation on the Bucks' first possession of the quarter and back-to-back steals and baskets by Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo gave Boston its first 10-point advantage less than two minutes into the final period.

Milwaukee never got closer than nine points thereafter. Without Redd, their sharpshooter, the Bucks made just two 3-pointers after the first quarter, making a complete comeback that much more difficult.

"When they make a run like that, especially on the road, it's tough to regain composure," Bell said. "We're out there without Michael Redd, and it's tough."

Kendrick Perkins accounted for seven of the 11 blocks for the Celtics, who lead the NBA in field-goal percentage defense and held the Bucks to 39 percent (31-of-78) shooting. Boston also forced Milwaukee to commit 22 turnovers.

"When you have that many turnovers in a pro game against a club like that, the odds are so long you're gonna be able to win," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said.

While giving credit to the Celtics' defense, Skiles said Milwaukee's lack of execution was a matter of messing up the basics.

"When Boston started to come back in the second quarter our execution just fell apart and their execution picked up," he said. "That's what good clubs do. We had a hard time even processing basic information tonight.

"We had a problem just point A to point B passing, had trouble recognizing they were in the passing lanes and, several times, we just threw the ball right to them."

The Bucks had three turnovers in four possessions to open the fourth and saw their deficit balloon to 13 on Leon Powe's dunk with 9:17 left.

The Celtics, who got 44 points from their bench, took their largest lead, 97-79, on a layup by House with 5:04 remaining.

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